Do you have a parent or other loved one who doesn’t see the need to have an estate plan – even a will? A lot of people do.
If you’ve decided to use part of your time together over the holidays to convince them that they need to put something in place, here are just a few things they may not realize could happen if they die “intestate” – without a valid will.
You can’t choose who will administer your estate
When you draft your will, you designate an executor who will oversee the distribution of your assets and be responsible for things like paying outstanding debts, dealing with the probate court and more. If you don’t designate that in your will, the court will appoint someone who may or may not be the person you would have chosen.
Your assets will be distributed according to state law
By drawing up a will, you can leave your assets to just about anyone or any organization you choose. For the most part, you don’t have to leave something to relatives with whom you have no relationship.
If you die intestate, assets are dispersed according to Mississippi law. Spouses and/or children inherit everything. For men, this means if you had a child outside of marriage, that child has the same right to a share of your estate as your other children if it can be proven that you’re the father – even if you never knew they existed.
If you don’t have a spouse or children, your parents and siblings are next in line. As noted, no consideration is given to your actual relationship. Familial relationships (how you’re related by blood, marriage or adoption) are the only consideration.
In Mississippi, there’s no distinction between “half” and “whole” relatives. That means if one or both of your parents remarried and you’ve got step-siblings out there, they could potentially inherit everything. Even if you have no remaining family (at least that you know of), wouldn’t you prefer to leave whatever you have to a worthy charity, your alma mater or perhaps to a close friend?
Families can fight over small estates
A person doesn’t have to leave millions of dollars behind for families to fight over an estate. There are family battles every day over jewelry, antiques and even tchotchkes based on what the deceased supposedly told them at some point. With some legal guidance, you can ensure you have a valid will that makes your wishes clear and lets you determine how your assets are distributed.