What happens when you die without a will?
Chances are that someone in your life has told you to make a will at some point or you have encountered some friends or relatives talking about making their own. You have probably heard the reasons why it is important to create a will; but, have you ever wondered what happens in the event that you die without preparing one?
Under Indiana law, if you die without a will, you are considered as dying “intestate.” This is simply legal terminology that identifies someone who dies without a will. This has certain legal implications, however, because Indiana law controls what happens to intestate estates and determines exactly how the property is distributed. This is all codified in Indiana Code § 29-1-2-1, et seq. While these can be relatively complex to figure out when there are a multitude of surviving relatives at various levels of representation, here are some simple examples of possible intestate distributions in Indiana:
Suppose you die without a will and leave behind your spouse and at least one child: your spouse will receive 50% of the net estate and the other 50% will pass to your children.
Or, suppose you die without a will and leave behind a spouse, no children, and at least one parent: your spouse will receive 75% of your net estate and your parent receives the rest.
Suppose that you have remarried and do not have any children with your current spouse, but have children from a previous relationship: your current spouse will receive only 25% of the remainder of the fair market value of any of your real estate at your date of death minus any outstanding debts on the real estate.
Suppose you are not married and have no children: your parents and siblings (or his/her children if a sibling predeceased you) will receive shares of your net estate with each parent being entitled to receive at least 25%.
Finally, suppose you die with zero relatives: your net estate will go to the State.
Most people like to be able to exercise a little bit more control on how their property passes following their death (whether that means providing more for a subsequent spouse, giving to a charitable organization, or even providing for a non-relative) than dictated by Indiana intestacy law. Also, keep in mind that this does not even consider the non-property related issues that arise upon death if minor children are involved. If you would like to develop an estate plan that works best for you and your specific wishes, contact an estate planning attorney at Cairns Law to discuss all of your options.