What Actually Happens If You Die Without A Will

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Obviously, no one wants to think about their own death. We want to enjoy life and live in the moment, right? But it's an unavoidable occurrence. We're all going to die one day, and it's best that we prepare for it as much as possible. This is so incredibly important as parents, too. From the moment our children are born, we spend our lives caring for them and taking care of them and securing their futures.

Which is why one of the most crucial things we can do for them is to plan for the eventuality of us not being around. By creating a will, you can insure that your children are taken care of and that your estate is managed according to your wishes after you're gone. A lot of parents put it off, and we can certainly understand why. As we mentioned, no one wants to actually plan for their own death. But we have to do what needs to be done, to make sure our family and children aren't left to deal with even more stress and conflict when you pass.

A will is a legal, binding document that details how you want your estate to be handled after you die. It can also address guardianship of your children, in the event both parents are deceased or one is unable or unwilling to take guardianship of any minor children. You can even include your final wishes for funeral arrangements.

If you die without a will, then your estate (your possessions, savings, retirement funds, and any property you own) will be divided among your living beneficiaries, such as your kids, your living spouse, or other family members. Without a will, the estate is divided up according to local laws. For example, anything you own with someone else will typically go to the co-owner, unless otherwise specified in a will. If you leave behind an estate with no will, the money is divided up among your living relatives, with money for minor children going into a trust.

A will can override local laws and make sure your specific wishes are honored after your death. For instance, if you own your home with your spouse, you can dictate that your half of the value of the home be placed in a trust for your kids. If you have a common-law spouse, you can insure they get whatever you want them to have (some states and cities do not give common-law spouses estate rights). A will can help you distinguish between biological or step-children, or minor or adult children.

But most importantly, a will can establish guardianship of your children in the event of the death of both parents (or an inability or unwillingness of a living parent to take guardianship). Without a will establishing guardianship for your kids, the state will have to step in and locate and screen potential guardians, which could take weeks and even months.

How you choose a guardian is very personal; some parents choose a close family member, like a sister or their parents. Others choose close friends or godparents. But in order to make sure your wishes are honored in regards to guardianship (and managing your children's finances), they have to be detailed in a legally binding will. These issues are far too important to be left to chance.

READ NEXT: How To Talk To Your Kids About Death

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