What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

According to a 2023 Caring.com study, two out of every three Americans do not have any type of estate planning document in place.

Some of the reasons people avoid creating essential estate planning documents include inflation and the cost of creating a will, lack of time, and not knowing where to begin. So, what happens if someone dies without a will?

What does it mean to die “intestate?”

If you die without a will to your name, it means you die “intestate.” This means that state laws will apply to your assets, property and finances, and a judge will pick an administrator to oversee and distribute your assets, property, and finances.

Why this isn’t an ideal situation

Not only would your last wishes not necessarily be respected (because someone would be administering your estate without your wishes on paper) but your beneficiaries and heirs may not get from the estate what they necessarily deserve.

Why a will is important

A will explains what the testator (the person who made the will) wants to have done with his or her property following his or her death. While the document does not need to be in a particular format, it does need to be:

  • In writing;
  • Signed by the testator or, at the direction of the testator, signed on the testator's behalf in the testator's conscious presence; and
  • Signed by at least two individuals within a reasonable amount of time of witnessing the signing of either the will or the testator's acknowledgment of that signature of the will.

According to Michigan law, a will may be a document that can also appoint a personal representative. A will can also be a document that revokes or revises another will; a document that nominates a guardian; or a document that expressly excludes or limits the rights of an heir to inherit the decedent’s property.

Wills should be updated regularly

Consider any changes to your life and/or circumstances when reviewing your will. The most obvious life changes include the birth or death of a family member, but if you’ve sold an asset or bought something new, you may want to update your will. There may be several other reasons.

Help is available

The estate planning attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to assist you when creating and/or updating your will. To speak with an attorney, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.

Categories: Estate Planning