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If You Don’t Make a Will, Then What?

DownloadFor example, in West Virginia, that all depends on your family situation. Here are the most typical situations and who gets what: (i) If you have had one or more children with your current spouse only, then your spouse will inherit 100% of your estate; (ii) if you have had no children (or none survive you), then 100% goes to your spouse; (iii) If you have had children with your spouse and your spouse also has children from a previous marriage, then your children will inherit 40% of your estate and your spouse will receive 60%; and (iv) If you have had children in your current marriage and during previous marriage(s), 50% will be inherited by all of your children and 50% by your current spouse.

Confused yet? That’s what The (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch asks us in its recent article titled “Planning ahead: What happens if you don't have a will.”

If you don’t have a surviving spouse, your estate will be divided among your descendants (children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews…). If you don’t have any descendants, it will be inherited in this order:

(1)    your parents;

(2)    your brothers and sisters;

(3)    nephews and nieces;

(4)    grandparents or their descendants; and then finally,

(5)    the State.

So if your parents are alive, they get it all. No one in the later groups will receive anything.

That's the basic structure of intestacy, which means “without a will.”

In intestacy, there are no special provisions to cover unique situations, no gifts to favorite non-profit organizations, and no special strategies to lower estate taxes.

Intestacy can be the most expensive version of estate "planning."

Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney and create a will to transfer your hard-earned assets to those who can best use them and protect those assets from taxes.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch (June 05, 2015) “Planning ahead: What happens if you don't have a will”

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