Dying without a will means many of your assets will pass according to your state’s intestacy laws. These laws establish a default for property distribution that can be overruled by a Will. By not creating a Will, you allow the state to make all of the important decisions regarding the disposition of your assets.
In Florida, for instance, if you die leaving a spouse and common children, your spouse will automatically inherit the first $60,000 of your estate plus one-half the remainder. The other half will be divided equally among your children. A Will allows you to specify a different distribution. For example, you could leave your spouse a greater share than provided by law. You could specify unequal distributions to your children. Or you could ensure other friends or relatives — who would receive nothing under intestacy law — receives a distribution from your estate.
It is important to make a Will even (or especially) if you have no immediate family. Intestacy law often goes through multiple generations to find someone to serve as your heir. For example, if you have no spouse, children, or living parents, the intestacy law may award your estate to any number of cousins — including persons you may have never met.
Whatever your intentions, you should work with a qualified estate planning attorney to create a Will that carries out your wishes and doesn’t leave your property to the default settings of the state.