That’s right. When you die without a Last Will and Testament in place, you’re giving the state permission to make decisions for you.
Did you know that 58% of all adults have no Will? Even people with high net worth are guilty of this sin of omission. According to Forbes Magazine, a recent survey found that 30% of people with $500,000 in assets or more do not have a Last Will and Testament.
If you don’t have a Will, maybe you think you have plenty of time to get your ducks in a row and it’s just not a priority for you right now. With that belief, you may leave your loved ones with a big headache if your future turns out to be shorter than you thought.
Without a Will, what happens to your minor children? Connecticut law gives the surviving parent guardianship of minor children, but what if the other parent is no longer living? Would you want the state to decide who should be your children’s guardian?
When there are life changes
Maybe there’s some uncertainty in your life and you’re waiting for it to be sorted out before you put anything in writing. It could be a divorce, your own or one of your possible heirs. That’s all the more reason to nail things down now, while you still have some say in the matter. Once you have a Will, you can revise it at any time to reflect the new circumstances. But when you die without a Will, someone else makes all the decisions.
Wills don’t cover all
But your Will doesn’t decide everything. Here are some assets that would pass to the surviving co-owner or to a named beneficiary:
Property you’ve transferred to a living trust
- Life insurance proceeds
- Funds in an IRA, 401K or other retirement account
- Securities held in a transfer on death account
- Payable on death bank accounts
- Vehicles held by transfer on death registration
- Property you own with someone else in joint tenancy
How the state divides up your estate
For any other property, if you die “intestate” (without a Will), the State of Connecticut divvies up your estate according to your circumstances. Take a look at what would happens in each scenario:
- If you die with children but no spouse, your children inherit everything
- If you die with a spouse but o descendants or parents, your spouse inherits everything|
- If you die with a spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, your spouse inherits the firs $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance; your descendants inherit everything else
- If you die with a spouse and at least one descendant from you and someone other than that spouse, your spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property, and your descendants inherit everything else
- If you die with a spouse and parents, your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance; and your parents inherit the remaining intestate property
- If you die with parents but no spouse or descendants, your parents inherit everything
- If you die with siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, your siblings inherit everything.
Few of us would actively choose to let our state government take charge of our property and make critical decisions about our minor children. But by leaving this important task of adulthood undone, you are doing just that.
Don’t take a chance with something so important. If you need help creating a Will that makes your intentions clear, contact a Connecticut estate-planning attorney for help.