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What happens if you die without creating a will?

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2022 | Probate

Although more people recognize the importance of estate planning, many still avoid drafting a will. Often, this is due to the general dislike of considering one’s final days of life. After all, to write a will is to contemplate a time when you no longer exist.

Aside from that, estate planning and will writing isn’t very exciting to most, so it is easy to put the task off. You risk a lot by waiting to create your will.

The court makes decisions

If you die without a will in place (known as “dying intestate”), your assets will be distributed by a representative the court chooses. Even if you gave your spouse or child instructions on handling your property, the court is obligated to settle your estate.

Your spouse may lose assets

You have probably heard somewhere that spouses are entitled to receive your assets if you die without a will. Although true, the final amount they receive depends on many factors. For example, if you have children (including those from an earlier relationship), they have a legal right to receive a share of your assets.

Disbursements come last

Without a will, your estate will pay for certain expenses or liabilities. Under Iowa law, the following items are deducted from your assets before your family gets their share:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Administrative and court costs
  • Expenses related to your last illness
  • Tax liabilities and certain other debts
  • Unpaid child support or alimony (spousal support)

A will combined with other estate planning documents (trusts, powers of attorney, etc.) helps ensure that your loved ones face fewer hardships in the wake of your death. Even better, it will be you who gets to decide how and to whom your assets are disbursed.