As unthinkable as it may be, any one of us may pass away at any given time. And while you may not wonder “What happens if I die without a will?” too often, it’s something we should all be considering. Regardless of how old you are, how many assets you own, or how financially secure you feel, dying without a will is never a good thing, and here’s why:

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

1. Your Minor Children Go Into State Custody

If you have children in your care who are under the age of 18, and you die without a will, the ongoing custody of your children will then be decided by a judge in a court of law—not by you.

This can be extremely frightening and emotionally jarring for your kids, especially for younger children. Within your will, you can determine who should get custody of your minor children should anything happen to you.

2. Your Asset Distribution Will Be Outside Your Control

If you do not have a will, the people receiving your assets (meaning your personal and real property) will be determined by what is called a “statutory schedule.” This means your spouse and children will be considered first—depending on whether or not the children are the children of your current spouse, followed by your parents and siblings.

If there are no living relatives among in your immediate family, your assets will pass to your aunts, uncles, and cousins. If you have no relatives at all, your assets will become the property of the state in which you live.

If you do have a will, you can designate who you want to receive your assets when you die and can assign particular items or amounts to each person. You can also designate something like an organization to receive part or all of your assets if you’d like.

If you die without a will, the administrator for your estate will be selected by the statutory schedule. This is the person who will collect your assets and distribute them according to what is called intestacy.

Certain relatives have the right to become the administrator if they act quickly enough after you pass away. If they fail to step up, more distant relatives and even creditors can be appointed as administrator. Related: What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

Asset Distribution and Minor Children

Under the statutory schedule, assets being distributed to minor children will be controlled by the court until the children reach the age of 18. In our experience, without a will, it is difficult for the surviving parent or guardians to access these funds to pay expenses for the children.

This can also be a factor with grandchildren who lose their parents before the grandparent(s) die. Your children will receive their entire inheritance in one lump package the day they turn 18.

Unfortunately, we know that this is almost always detrimental to their long-term health and happiness. We find that most children use the money unwisely, often spending through it quickly.

And because of this sudden wealth, they may forego college or put off starting a career. By having a will or a proper children’s trust, you can extend the timeframe of when your minor children will receive their inheritance.

You can pick the age when you think they are ready to handle it and make it available to them only at that point. Related: Custody of Minor Children When the Natural Parents Die.

3. Your Heirs Will Have To Pay More Taxes

If you have tax-deferred money, like a 401k or an IRA without named beneficiaries, your heirs may be forced to pay more taxes, more quickly than they would have to if you had a will and a properly-named beneficiary.

This is like throwing away your hard-earned money on government taxes when you didn’t have to if only you’d had a will.

Related: Here’s what happens when you die without a will.

Need an Estate Attorney? Call the Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer. If you’re wondering “what happens if I die without a will?”, trust the Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer. We’ll help you create a will and put into place the legal documents that can protect both your assets and the ones you love. This is part of what we do in our estate planning practice area. Don’t let age or thinking you don’t have enough assets to worry about deter you from creating your will. Contact our office for an appointment.