When do I need a will, and what are the dangers of not having one?

Theoretically, anyone with assets should have a will. A person without a will is said to have died intestate. When someone dies intestate, his or her assets generally pass as follows:

  1. if there is a spouse and no children or parents of the deceased, the spouse receives 100% of the assets;
  2. if there is a spouse and children, all of whom are also the issue of the surviving spouse, the spouse receives the first $50,000 plus ½ of the balance, and the children split the remaining assets equally;
  3. if there is a spouse and one or more children who are not the issue of the surviving spouse, ½ is given to the spouse and all children will split the remaining assets;
  4. if there is a spouse and parents, but no children, the spouse will receive the first $50,000 plus ½ of the balance of the assets, with the parent(s) receiving the remaining assets equally;
  5. if there are only children and no parents or spouse, the children will split all assets equally;
  6. If there are no surviving parents, spouse or children, then assets would be split equally between brothers and sisters if applicable; and finally
  7. if only grandparents survive the deceased, the assets would be split equally among them.

However, if none of these circumstances are applicable and there are no relatives, the state would determine where your assets would be distributed. Therefore, if you wish to split your assets in a manner contrary to the pre-decided legal allotments in your state, or if you have no relatives and wish to divide your assets among your favorite charities or friends, you definitely need a will to make certain that your wishes are properly carried out upon your death.

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