What Are Awful Consequences of Dying Without a Will?
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What Are Awful Consequences of Dying Without a Will?

What is dying intestate? How can I ensure that my loved ones are protected and wishes are carried out? This article provides 7 consequences that come with not creating a Will and how you can prevent these issues for the future! Scroll to read more!

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Dying without a Will, known as dying intestate, can have significant consequences for your estate and your loved ones. In this blog post, FastWill is going to explore the potential negative outcomes that can arise when you pass away without taking care of business. As usual, we’ll have a little help from our dead celebrity friends. By understanding these consequences, you'll recognize the importance of having an up-to-date Will in place to protect your assets, provide for your family, and ensure your final wishes are carried out.

  1. State Laws Dictate Asset Distribution 

If you asked Prince, while he was alive, whether he would’ve wanted Minnesota law dictating which family members controlled his music publishing rights after his death, he would have politely but cooly said something like “Hell no.” Prince was famous for strictly controlling his image, likeness, and music, hoarding all of his master tapes, and refusing to release music until he believed it was worthy. But by not having a Will, Prince ceded control of his legacy to the courts, which followed state law. Now his music is controlled by several companies that are run by banks and his siblings. These businesses are releasing unreleased Prince tracks, something he surely did not want. However, that’s the harsh reality behind dying intestate:  you don’t decide, the state decides.

When you die intestate, the distribution of your assets is determined by the laws of the state where you reside. These laws, known as intestacy laws, provide a default distribution plan that may not align with your wishes. Typically, intestacy laws prioritize immediate family members such as a surviving spouse and children. However, if you have specific desires for how your assets should be divided, without a will, those wishes may not be honored. In Prince’s case, he had no living children and no spouse, which meant his estate was divided among several heirs, all with their own idea of what to do with his fortune.

  1. Lack of Control over Guardian Appointments  

If you have minor children and pass away without a Will, the court will determine who becomes their guardian. Normally the court will appoint the child’s other parent if they are still alive and able to care for the children. However, what if the other parent dies before you? Would you want to have a say in determining who raises your kid? Of course, you would. But once again, when you don’t have a Will, you don’t have a say. 

It’s also important to give serious consideration to who would be a suitable person to raise your children. Michael Jackson had a Will and named his mother Katherine as guardian of his three kids. But Katherine was already in her 80s when her son passed away. All three of his children were underage. Many questioned the wisdom of this appointment, especially after Katherine disappeared for ten days in 2012, which prompted the court to name Michael’s nephew T.J. as a temporary guardian. By 2018, an 89-year-old Katherine could no longer serve in the role of guardian and T.J. stepped in again. Michael could have done a better job of ensuring his kids’ future care.

How do courts make guardianship decisions? If the child’s other parent is alive, they are highly likely to get custody. But if they aren’t the court will want to know what the parents would have wanted. By creating a Will, you can nominate a guardian who reflects your values and parenting style, providing your children with stability and care in the event of your untimely passing.

  1. Potential Family Conflicts and Legal Battles  

Dying intestate can lead to disputes among family members regarding the distribution of assets. In the absence of clear instructions, disagreements and conflicts can arise, straining relationships and potentially leading to costly and time-consuming legal battles. When Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968 he did not have a Will. For a time, this worked out alright, since his widow formed an organization to oversee his assets and legacy. But when Coretta Scott King died, followed by eldest daughter Yolanda, infighting broke out among the siblings. The children have sued each other several times over how the state was handled. These disputes can cause irreparable damage to family dynamics and also drain resources that could have been preserved for the benefit of everyone.

  1. Increased Taxes and Expenses  

Howard Hughes was one of the richest men in the world when he died without a Will. It took decades to settle the estate and during that time the estate’s lawyers had to fight legal challenges from allegedly secret children and allegedly secret wives. Dying intestate also cost the state a whopping $169 million in taxes, which surely could have been rectified by some estate planning.

Without a Will, your estate may incur additional expenses and taxes. Intestate estates often require more complex administration, which can lead to higher legal and administrative costs. Furthermore, the lack of strategic estate planning can result in increased tax liabilities, as missed opportunities for tax mitigation and efficient wealth transfer are more likely to occur. 

  1. Unintended Beneficiary Designations 

When you die without a Will, assets that pass outside of the probate process, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death (POD) accounts, will be distributed according to the designated beneficiaries. If these beneficiary designations are not regularly reviewed and updated, they may not reflect your current wishes. This can result in assets being transferred to individuals you no longer intend to benefit or to unintended beneficiaries, causing financial and emotional complications. Why do we bring this up here? Because most people who write their Wills also review their beneficiary designations as part of the planning process?

  1. Pets Are Not Taken Care Of

Oprah Winfrey established a trust that will provide her dogs with $30 million. Leona Helmsley left more money in trust for her dog than she did for her grandchildren. Numerous other celebrities have followed suit. $30 million may be excessive, but most Americans would stop at almost nothing to ensure their pets’ happiness. Yet they stop short of providing their pets with a viable care plan in the event of an untimely (or even timely) death. 

Although it isn’t legal to leave money directly to your pets (because your iguana and cat can’t go down to the bank themselves, no matter how much they tell you they can) you can establish trusts, give bequests for their care, and use other mechanisms to protect them after your death. Unfortunately, many pets wind up in animal shelters after their family members die because no one thought to provide a guardian for their care. If you care about their welfare, then you should include them in the estate planning process.

  1. Charitable Intentions May Go Unfulfilled 

When Amy Winehouse died at just age 27 from a drug overdose, she died intestate. Winehouse’s parents inherited her estate and established a charitable foundation to help musicians struggling with drugs and alcohol. Her ex-husband wasn’t entitled to any money but that didn’t stop him from eventually filing a lawsuit against her estate. Although he wasn’t successful, any such claims can drain an estate’s resources. 

If you have a desire to leave a portion of your estate to charitable organizations or causes, dying without a will can prevent those intentions from being realized. Without a clear directive in your will, your philanthropic goals may not be achieved, depriving organizations of much-needed support and impacting the legacy you wish to leave behind.

It’s Easy to Make an Online Will

Dying without a Will can lead to a host of negative consequences for your estate and loved ones. By failing to establish an estate plan, you risk leaving important decisions to state laws, potential family conflicts, and unintended distribution of assets. Creating a comprehensive will allows you to take control of your estate, protect your assets, and ensure your wishes are carried out. By creating an account with FastWill, you can make a valid Will right away that is personalized to your circumstances.

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