Skip to Main Content
Google Plus Logo
Home Nursing Services
At Home Therapies
Home Care FAQ
Bereavement & Grief
Hospice & Alzheimers
Hospice Pet Therapy
Special Care Programs
Your Care Team
Specialized Home Care
Patient-Centered Dementia Care
Congestive Heart Failure
Hypertension / Blood Pressure
Coronary Artery Disease
Mental Health and Depression
Home Care Support for Multiple Sclerosis
Paraplegia and Quadriplegia
Traumatic Brain Injury
Our Standard of Care
Caring Brands International
Aging in Place
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Health Aide
8 Dietary Tips for Improving Senior Heart Health
Talking About Substance Abuse as a Caregiver
How to Take Care of Aging Hair
4 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Seniors
Designing Outdoor Living Areas for Seniors
Getting A Grip: How and Where to Install Bathroom Grab Bars
Keeping Active: Tips for Senior Gardening
Alzheimer's and Dementia
Calculating the Cost
Certified Senior Advisors
Consumer Health Care Education
Advisor Care Giving Guide
Care in a Residential Facility
Check Your Home Care IQ
Elder Care Communities
Medicare and Home Care
Senior Care Resources
Senior Care Scams
Signs That Care At Home is Needed
Long Term Care
Mobility in Seniors
Home Safety Checklist
Home Safety Tips
Medications and Fall Risk
Reduce the Risk of Falling
Risk of Falling
Visiting the Doctor and Discussing Falls
What to Do If Someone Falls
Elder Care Videos
Hiring Your Own Caregivers
Family Care Giving Facts
Information for Seniors
Long Distance Caregiving
Starting the Conversation
The Stress of Family Caregiving
Taking Care Of Yourself as a Family Caregiver
Home Care Technology
Hospice Fact or Myth
Exercise and Older Adults
Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure
Seniors and Zika Virus
Stories From Home
Transitioning from a Facility
Independent Living Assessment
The Consequences of Dying Without a Will
The Consequences of Dying Without a Will
Posted: 3/24/2016 2:14 PM by
Dear Savvy Senior,
What will happen to my money and possessions if I die without a will?
If you die without a will, what happens to your assets will be determined by the state you reside in. Every state has intestacy laws in place that parcel out property and assets to a deceased person’s closest relatives when there’s no will or trust. But these laws vary from state-to-state.
A good resource to help you find out how your state works is About.com’s Wills and Estate Planning site, which provides a state-by-state breakdown of how your estate would be distributed if you die without a will. See
for a direct link to this page.
In the meantime, here is a general (not state specific) breakdown of what can happen to a person’s assets, depending on whom they leave behind.
Married with children:
When a married person with children dies without a will, all property, investments and financial accounts that are “jointly owned” automatically goes to the surviving co-owner (typically the spouse or child), without going through probate, which is the legal process that distributes a deceased person’s assets.
But for all other separately owned property or individual financial accounts, the laws of most states award one-third to one-half to the surviving spouse, while the rest goes to the children.
Married with no children or grandchildren:
Some states award the entire estate to the surviving spouse, or everything up to a certain amount (for example the first $100,000). But many other states award only one-third to one-half of the decedent’s separately owned assets to the surviving spouse, with the remainder generally going to the deceased person’s parents, or if the parents are dead, to brothers and sisters.
Jointly owned property, investments, financial accounts, or community property automatically goes to the surviving co-owner.
Single with children:
All state laws provide that the entire estate goes to the children, in equal shares. If an adult child of the decedent has died, then that child’s children (the decedent’s grandchildren) split their parent’s share.
Single with no children or grandchildren:
In this situation, most state laws favor the deceased person’s parents. If both parents are deceased, many states divide the property among the brothers and sisters, or if they are not living, their children (your nieces and nephews). If there are none of them, it goes to the next of kin, and if there is no living family, the state takes it.
Make a Will
To ensure your assets go to those you want to receive them, you need to create a will. If you have a simple estate and an uncomplicated family situation, there are several good do-it-yourself resources that can help you for very little money.
One of the best is the Quicken WillMaker Plus 2016 software (available at
) that costs $55, works with Windows personal computers and is valid in every state except Louisiana. If you use a Mac, they offer an online will maker for $35.
If, however, you want or need assistance or if you have a complicated financial situation, blended family or have considerable assets, you should hire an attorney. An experienced attorney can make sure you cover all your bases, which can help avoid family confusion and squabbles after you’re gone.
Costs will vary depending on where you reside, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $1,000 for a will.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (
) and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (
) are good resources that have online directories to help you find someone in your area.
If money is tight, check with your state’s bar association (see
) to find low-cost legal help in your area. Or call the Eldercare Locater at 800-677-1116 for a referral.