Ask the Experts!
Here’s the question of the day.
Question: What are the consequences of dying without a will?
Answer: The main consequence is that the rules of the state or the decedent’s residence will control who gets the person’s personally-owned, non-beneficiary assets.
Is that a bad result? Probably, For example, if the decedent was Tennessee resident, would he or she have wanted a will with the following provisions?
I, TESTATOR, of Nashville, Tennessee, hereby declare this to be my Last Will.
I give my spouse one-third of my assets, and I give my three children the remaining two-thirds. This includes my interest in my business, even though only my son has any clue how to run the thing.
Should my spouse remarry, I encourage her new spouse to help spend everything he can get his hands on, including the assets of the business.
Even though I was active in my church during my lifetime, I think it has plenty of funds and I make no provision to support the church after my death. My other charitable interests are out of luck, too.
I direct the Probate Court to select an executor for my estate. If the court wants to appoint a stranger, that’s OK by me.
Finally, since I love the state and federal governments as much as I love my family, I direct that no effort be made to lower taxes.
Other states have similar default provisions. If our clients don’t want an unexpected distribution of assets at death, we should make sure they have effective and up-to-date estate planning documents.
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