Don’t Have a Will? Do You Know What Happens?

Bigstock-Family-Portrait-At-Christmas-4881212In some parts of the U.S., like West Virginia, without a will, your estate is first distributed according to your marital status and children, including those of previous marriages. However, if you have no spouse or children, you may want to pull out your family tree to see who could be in the running.

When there is no will in place, commonly in West Virginia, the current spouse of a married couple with or without one or more descendants receives the full estate. However, your spouse would receive only 60% of the estate if he or she had children with you and also a previous marriage. Your children would then receive the remaining 40% of the estate. But if you were the spouse with kids from a previous marriage(s), then all your children will inherit one-half of your estate, and the other half to your current spouse.

Confused yet? That’s what The (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch asks us in its recent article titled “Planning ahead: What happens if you don't have a will.”

If you don’t have a surviving spouse, your estate will be divided among your descendants (children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews…). If you don’t have any descendants, it will be inherited in this order:

(1)    your parents;

(2)    your brothers and sisters;

(3)    nephews and nieces;

(4)    grandparents or their descendants; and then finally,

(5)    the State.

So if your parents are alive, they get it all. No one in the later groups will receive anything.

That's the basic structure of intestacy, which means “without a will.”

In intestacy, there are no special provisions to cover unique situations, no gifts to favorite non-profit organizations, and no special strategies to lower estate taxes.

Intestacy can be the most expensive version of estate "planning."

Talk with an experienced Houston estate planning attorney and create a will to transfer your hard-earned assets to those who can best use them and protect those assets from taxes.

For additional information about wills and other legal documents in Houston, please visit my website.

Reference: The (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch (June 05, 2015) “Planning ahead: What happens if you don't have a will”


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