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What happens if you die without a will?

submitted by E. Garrett Gummer, III, Esquire – www.GummerElderLaw.com

We all know we are supposed to do estate planning, but not all of us get around to it.

So what happens if you don’t have a will when you die?

Your estate will be distributed according to Pennsylvania law, which may or may not be the way you want it to be distributed.

Dying without a will is called dying “intestate.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has laws that determine what will happen to your estate if you do not have a will.

If you are married, in Pennsylvania, the first $30,000, plus one-half of the remainder of your estate will pass to your spouse, with the rest divided among your children or, if you don’t have children.

If you are single, in Pennsylvania your estate will pass to your children in equal shares or to other living relatives if you do not have children.

If you have absolutely no living relatives, only then will your assets pass to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Note that any jointly held assets, such as bank accounts or houses, will go directly to the co-owner.

In addition any life insurance policies or retirement accounts will go directly to the beneficiary designated on the account.

And if you have a trust, any assets in the trust will go to the beneficiary designated in the trust.

One purpose of a will is to name a guardian for your young children; if you do not have a will, the court will determine who will act as guardian.

The court will also appoint the person who will administer your estate. In addition, if you are unmarried, but have a partner, your partner will not inherit anything from your estate without a will naming him or her as a beneficiary.

The best way to ensure your estate is distributed the way you want it, is to plan your estate with a will and/or a trust.

Contact your elder law attorney to start planning.