Bill Harrington
May 29, 2024

What Happens to Someone’s Belongings After They Die Without a Will?

When an individual passes away without a will, their estate is subject to intestate succession laws, which vary by state and determine the distribution of property without a legal document outlining the deceased’s wishes.

Estate Planning

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Death is an inevitable part of life, yet many of us hesitate to confront the uncomfortable reality of planning for our passing. However, failing to create a will can significantly affect the distribution of our belongings and assets after we're gone. When an individual passes away without a will, their estate is subject to intestate succession laws, which vary by state and determine the distribution of property without a legal document outlining the deceased's wishes.

Belongings Without a Will Subject to Intestate Succession Laws

In Pennsylvania, intestate succession laws dictate the distribution of assets if someone dies without a will. If you pass away without a will in Pennsylvania, your children or their descendants are entitled to a portion of your estate. Each child's share depends on the number of children and whether or not a spouse survives the deceased.

If an individual does not have children or surviving spouses, intestate succession laws typically allocate the estate to other family members, such as parents, siblings, or more distant relatives. If the individual has no living relatives, the state may claim the estate, adding another layer of complexity to an already difficult situation.

The Consequences of Dying Without a Will

The consequences of dying without a will extend beyond mere asset distribution. With clear instructions in a will, loved ones may be able to handle uncertainty and disputes over who should receive what. This conflict can lead to high emotions, strained relationships, and lengthy legal battles that further complicate an already challenging time of grieving.

Moreover, dying intestate means relinquishing control over the distribution of assets. A will allows individuals to specify their wishes regarding beneficiaries, charitable donations, and even the care of dependents or pets. Without such guidance, the fate of these crucial matters falls into the hands of the legal system, which may not align with the deceased's intentions or values.

In addition to the emotional and practical implications, dying without a will can also have significant financial repercussions. Legal fees, court costs, and taxes associated with intestate succession can diminish the estate's value, leaving less for beneficiaries to inherit. Furthermore, the lack of estate planning may result in assets being distributed inefficiently or unfavorably from a tax perspective.

How to Avoid Intestacy

So, what can individuals do to avoid the pitfalls of intestacy? The answer is simple: create a will. While contemplating our mortality may not be pleasant, drafting a will can ensure our loved ones honor our wishes after we're gone. Whether through a legal professional's assistance or online resources, creating a will is a proactive step toward protecting our legacy and easing the burden on those we leave behind.

Pennsylvania Estate Planning Lawyers Who Put You First at WPH Law

The consequences of dying without a will are far-reaching and can create unnecessary hardship for loved ones left behind. By understanding the implications of intestacy and taking proactive steps to create a will, individuals can ensure the distribution of their belongings according to their wishes and spare their heirs the stress and uncertainty of navigating the complexities of intestate succession.

Every family should prepare for the aftermath of a loved one’s passing. To ensure your wishes are honored after death, speak with a compassionate PA estate planning lawyer at WPH Law for free.

Contact us today by submitting a form online or calling our office at 484-459-5075 for a free legal consultation.

Attorney William P. Harrington, Jr., ESQ.

Bill Harrington

Bill is an experienced attorney in estate planning and administration, credit card debt litigation, bankruptcy, and personal injury. He lives in Kinzers, PA, with his wife and three children.
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