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What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

If you die "intestate" - without a will - what happens to your property ("estate") will depend on your marital staus and whether or not you have children.

Married With Children

The laws of most states award one-third to one-half of the estate of someone who dies without a will to the surviving spouse.  The rest of the property goes to the children, regardless of their ages.

Married With No Children

Most state laws give only one-third to one-half of the estate to the surviving spouse.  The remainder generally goes to the deceased person's parents, or if the parents are dead, to brothers and sisters.

Single With Children

When a single person with children dies without a will, state laws uniformly provide that the entire estate goes to the children.

Single Person With No Children

In this situation, most state laws favor the deceased person's parents.  If both parents are deceased, many states divide the propertty among the brothers and sisters.

Estate Planning Information Checklist

Collecting the following information ahead of time will save you time and money in your estate planning lawyer's office:

  • Names and addresses of your immediate family members and people you would like to serve as executors, trustees and guardians for your children.
  • Bank account information, such as balances, account numbers, locations of accounts and safe deposit boxes.
  • Pension and retirement account information, including IRAs, Keoghs, profit sharing plans, stock options and government benefits.
  • Detailed description of any stocks and bonds owned.
  • Insurance policy information, including policy location and beneficiaries, as well as a copy of the actual policy.
  • An inventory list of valuable and sentimental personal possessions, including family heirlooms.
  • Copies of community property agreements, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, divorce decrees and any previous wills or will codicils.
  • An overall description of your income sources and assets, including real estate.
  • A list of debts owed, including amounts and to whom they are owed.
  • A list of specific "bequests" you want to make in your will, such as "$5,000 to my niece, Tipper."
  • Recent tax returns (say from the past three or four years).

Marin Law Partners, LLP
21 Tamal Vista Bld. Suite 204
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Phone: 415.927.2333
Fax: 415.927.2354

575 Jefferson Street
Napa, CA 94559
Phone: 707.252.9225
Fax: 707.252.2080

135 Keller Street, Suite C

Petaluma, CA 94952

Phone: 707.763.1553

Fax: 707.763.4204


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