Here’s What Happens If You Don’t Leave a Will

According to a recent survey, 58 percent of Americans currently do not have a will. For those with children under the age of 18, the numbers are even worse — only 36 percent of these parents and guardians have a will, meaning a full 64 percent of people who are taking care of minor children have no end-of-life plans in place.

Americans are really falling down on the job when it comes to estate planning in part because we just don’t want to think about our own mortality. And it can be hard to worry too much about what will happen to our assets after we’re gone since we won’t be around to see it.

But dying intestate does have some pretty serious consequences, even though you won’t be the one experiencing them. Here’s the sobering truth about what happens if you don’t have a will in place when you die. (See also: What You Need to Know About Writing a Will)

The state will make decisions about your minor children

Who gets to make decisions about your young children if you’re not around? For most two-parent households, it’s easy to assume that there will always be one parent around even if illness, accident, or bad luck strikes the other. But what if you are a single parent, a divorced parent, or a parent in a blended family? Or what if — heaven forbid — something should happen to both parents at once? In that case, dying intestate would mean your state of residence will be making choices about your children’s well-being, rather than you.

Even though the odds are in favor of parents living to see their kids reach adulthood, having a will in place can offer you peace of mind. It allows you to decide who will take care of your kids, rather than leaving it up to others to decide. (See also: Don’t Make These 5 Common Mistakes When Writing a Will)

Your stuff will go to your next-of-kin

Let’s say your closest living relative is your odious brother. You’ve never been close to him, and he’s been nothing but abusive your entire life — but the last straw was when he made it clear that he disapproved of your long-term relationship with your live-in girlfriend, who is the love of your life.

If you die without a will, he will inherit everything, even if you want your assets to go to her.

The state assigns inheritance based on degree of familial relationship, since there is no other fair way of determining what you would have wanted. So even though you swore you’d never speak to your brother again, he will still be your sole heir if you die intestate.

This is a particularly tough problem for unmarried life partners….

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