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What happens if you die without a Will?

Posted by Anthony Serra | Jun 07, 2018 | 0 Comments

I get asked this question often and contrary to popular belief, if you die without a Will, all your stuff does not go the State.  However, what is true is that all your stuff will be distributed to people according to how the State believes you would have wanted your estate distributed had you prepared a Will.  In other words, your entire estate gets distributed to your “next-of-kin,” according to the laws of intestacy.  Intestate is a fancy word for someone who dies without a Will (and when someone dies with a Will, it is called testate). 

Of course, it is quite likely that the laws of intestacy will not reflect exactly how you want your assets distributed since these laws apply to everyone.  The law is not sensitive to the fact you may want to give a particular person something you own and cherish, or that you want something to go to a charity or, frankly, that you want to disinherit someone.  None of your personal wishes and preferences, even if they are well known to your family, will matter.  Your intestate estate will pass according to the law, and that's it.  Click here for a chart of consanguinity that shows degrees of relationship by blood 

The other risk of not having a Will is that you will not have designated a guardian or trustee for your minor children.  That can be very problematic if you feel very strongly about who should be given the legal responsibility of raising your minor children when you are gone.  Designating guardians and trustees who share your parental values and approach is very important and requires a good deal of thought and consideration.  It could be a sibling, or an in-law or even a very good friend.  But unless you name that person in your Will, it will be just as likely someone else will be appointed to serve in these important roles than the person you truly want.

So, the solution to this problem is simple – just have a Will drawn up for you (and your spouse if you're married) and eliminate all of these issues.  It's easy to do and you'll feel so much better knowing your “affairs” (at least some of them) are now in order.

About the Author

Anthony Serra

Tony Serra is a passionate advocate, especially for the elderly, disabled and those of modest means who need the services of an experienced and caring attorney. For more than 30 years, Tony has been helping common, everyday folks navigate their way through life's turbulent waters. Through innovation and utilizing modern technology, Tony and his law firm are now able to offer quality legal services that at one time were prohibitively expensive, at a fraction of the cost. If you need basic legal services, such as a Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will, Special Needs Trust, real estate transactions, uncontested guardianship pleadings and much more, please visit our website and our SMART LAW legal services platform. You will be pleasantly surprised by what we offer and glad you did! Tony is also an experienced mediator and founder of the Conflict Resolution Center of NJ. Tony has specific training in family matters as well as elder law and contested guardianship and estate cases.  


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