What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

We believe in the importance of having a plan for all stages of life – including death. Planning for what comes tomorrow ensures you and your loved ones aren’t left picking up the pieces when something unexpected happens. Short of clairvoyance, there’s no predicting what will happen but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for it.

Dying without a will is dying without a plan. This is what is referred to as “intestate.” Your loved ones are forced to piece together what they can from your assets, debts, and wealth left over for them when you pass.

Your Wishes and Legacy Are Out of Your Hands

Estate Planning is often about answering important questions so others aren’t left guessing. Who gets the family home? What money and investments are transferring to which heir? How do you want your final wishes to be executed?

Most people have a vision for what they want to happen to their legacy when they’re gone. Short of a will, you lose all say in this process. Your legacy turns over to the courts to decide who will execute your estate and what individuals are eligible to receive assets/wealth.

Get Comfortable with the Default Split

For some people, splitting half of their assets between their spouse and their children makes sense. For others, this falls short of capturing their intentions and wishes. When you die intestate in South Carolina, the first assumed division of assets is split 50/50 between the surviving spouse and children. If you are married without children then all assets transfer to your spouse. If you are unmarried but have kids then the assets are split evenly among your children.

This may sound well enough for you, but if you have minor children this creates additional nuance that complicates ownership of the assets you worked hard to acquire. Property owned by a minor cannot be sold, mortgage or otherwise encumbered without the appointment of a guardian through the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the property is located. This means that if you need to sell or refinance the property, someone will have to be appointed by the Clerk of Court as guardian for the estate of the minor, even if a parent, in order to act on the minor’s behalf to sell or mortgage.   Additionally, if the property is sold, the proceeds will be held by the guardian for the minor’s benefit until he or she turns 18 and each year the guardian has to report to the Clerk of Court showing they still hold the money.  If any of the money is used, it has to be done for the benefit of the minor and you have to have specific court approval to spend it. .

Throwing Away Your Principles

Estate Planning is not just a statement of facts but a means to care for the loved ones that you’re leaving behind in the way that you want that to happen. If nobody has legal evidence of your wishes such as a will or trust then you lose out on all of this control. You deserve to have a say in your children’s future even if you aren’t around to guide them. Let us help you secure your legacy and protect your loved ones. Contact Charleston Estate Planning Law Firm for compassionate and thorough estate planning services.

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Charleston Estate Planning Law Firm

At the Charleston Estate Planning Law Firm, we believe that estate planning is all about protecting your family and loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death.

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