Wills & Trusts

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What happens if I don't have a Will or Trust?

According Forbes.com (Ashlee Ebeling, 03/01/10) 65% of Americans have no will or estate plan in place when they die. That is why every state has a plan in place if you die without a will. It is called an Intestacy Statute. In short, if you don't make a plan, the state has one already made for you. If you are part of the 65%, what happens to your property when you die? Usually your spouse or loved one will decide that an estate administration needs to be opened. More often than not, this will involve hiring the help of an attorney. A Petition for Administration must be filed with the court. Also a Family Tree will need to be included in some courts. A list of assets will need to be provided to the court. In some instances, the person seeking to be an administrator may be required to purchase a bond from an insurance company. They must notify all of the legal heirs of the deceased and ask them to sign a waiver consenting to them being named the Administrator of the Estate.
If no one contests them being named Administrator, the judge will issue an Order, called Letters of Administration, authorizing them to handle the estate. If they fail to sign the stipulation, at least one court appearance will be necessary. The problem with relying on New York's plan is that it may not fit your family. It might give money to people who will squander it. It could give money to:
  • Children with drug or alcohol issues.
  • A child facing bankruptcy, a lawsuit or divorce.
  • A child who is simply too young to handle it.
  • A spouse in a nursing home.
  • A spouse who may remarry.
In each of those cases all of the money that you spent a lifetime saving could be gone in a flash. For parents of minor children, having no plan can be especially problematic, because they can name a guardian for their children only in a will.
If you need help navigating the will or trust process, please call us at 315-203-1742.