What Happens if you Die Without a Will?

Photo by Sandy Millar via Unsplash

If you have a will, it’s easy to think that your loved ones will be fine when you die. But what if you don’t have a will? What happens to all of your assets? What about your kids and pets? How do you make sure you’ve taken care of everyone in the event of your untimely passing? Well don’t worry! We’ve got all the answers for you here at Myend. Today we’re discussing everything related to what happens if you die without a will.

Dying without a will

If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of your state. However, this is not necessarily the result that you would want. For example, let’s say you are married and have children but are estranged from them. Maybe you haven’t seen them in years at the time of death. They could still end up receiving assets or money from your estate!

Let’s take another example: you don’t have any children but have parents who still need financial support when they’re older. Or perhaps there’s some other person who’s been caring for them but would now lose that support. In that case you’ll want to name someone else as heir. This way you won’t leave out in the cold. That’s especially true when you pass away prematurely without thinking about how long their caretaker can support.

What is intestacy?

The term “intestate” simply refers to someone who dies without a will. Intestacy laws are describing regulations about intestacy. In this case, your possessions (also known as your estate) pass to your closest relatives under the laws of intestacy.

We can break Intestacy down into two main categories: 1) if you are married, and 2) if you aren’t married. We go next into such details in depth next.

What happens to my assets if I die without a will?

If you die intestate, your estate goes through the intestacy laws of your state.

In New York State (for example), the probate court appoints an executor or personal representative to handle your assets. The court usually chooses your spouse or children if possible to serve as representatives. Such a representative manages and distributes the property you had accumulated upon our death.

All intestate property distribution takes place exclusively based on related state law; there are no exceptions made for close friends or loved ones who may want access to some of your remaining possessions upon death. It all goes according to what the laws of intestacy state.

What happens if i'm single and die without a will?

Intestacy laws apply here too. Since you don’t have a spouse or partner then your parents inherit everything (or if they’re dead then their children do). If there are no surviving parents or siblings then the next closest relatives inherit your estate.

If you have children with someone who isn’t your partner then they would automatically become your beneficiaries. That, specifically takes place under common law marriage in most states (though this could change depending on where you live).

What happens if i'm married and die without a will?

If you die without a will and are married, your spouse will be able to keep the house. They will also probably keep any other assets that you had in your name. If there are children from your marriage, they will most likely live with their mom or dad.

In most states, your spouse does not need to apply for guardianship of the children. That’s especially true if they are able to provide for their daily needs like food and shelter. However the court may still appoint a guardian anyway. That’s if they have reason to suspect that your spouse won’t be a good guardian.

What happens if i'm in a domestic partnership and die without a will?

If you’re in a domestic partnership, most states recognize your partner as a spouse or give them the same rights. So, what we said in the above section applies to both spouses and domestic partners.

There are states, though, that do not recognize domestic partnerships the same as marriage. That means that a domestic partner may not have the rights of a spouse. And if they don’t qualify as a spouse then the probate court might treat you as single. Make sure you check the status of domestic partnerships in your state.

What happens to my children if I die without a will?

If you don’t have a will, the probate court decides who gets your property. The court can appoint someone to be the guardian of your minor children (children under 18). However, the court will probably choose a guardian who is a relative or someone who already has custody of them. Being married or in a domestic partnership is usually enough for your spouse to have custody of your children. Other relatives may want to contest that though. That’s why having a will can be really important.

What happens to my pets if I die without a will?

If you have a spouse or children, then they will be the caretakers of your pets. In case that’s not true for you, your pets will end up with a friend or family member. If that doesn’t work out, the state will keep your pets until someone else adopts them.

How to prepare for the worst so it's not your loved ones' hassle

  • Write a will. We couldn’t say it clearer that having a will can be crucial.

  • Plan for your loved ones’ futures. Make sure you take care of them.

  • Think about what is important to you and those close to you.

Final Thoughts

If you die without a will, it’s hard to know what might happen to your assets and your family. Without a will in place, there are many legal issues that could arise for those you leave behind. And these problems could potentially cost them tens of thousands of dollars!

Myend offers the perfect estate and end-of-life planning for all! This way you don’t have to face any of the issues we mentioned in this article. Have a look here to learn more. And if you’re ready for action, sign up today for your free account! The estate planning of the future is here today.

Navigating Terminal Illness

Download our Guide with 10 tips for those dealing with a terminal illness, or for loved ones supporting someone who is terminally ill.

Free End of Life planner

Sign up to receive our free checklist to help you get started with your End of Life Plan
Previous slide
Next slide

Organize, store, and share all the life-essential information in one place.


Myend is not a law firm, it does not engage in the practice of law, and it does not render any official legal advice. Therefore, you are hereby advised to seek your own legal counsel regarding any legal issues. Myend’s articles are meant to be taken as suggestions and therefore Myend carries no responsibility for the user’s actions.