What happens if you die without a will

Jennifer Thompson
8 min readJun 8, 2020

Soon after his fortieth birthday, Jason died from cancer of the blood. His death left his family reeling.

They had to deal with the grief from his death, and the uncertainty about his wishes for his estate. Jason died without a will.

The legal term for this is Intestate Succession. Intestate means dying without a Will and succession is how to divide the estate of the person who has died.

Photo by Nathan Diablo

Jason had a son from a previous marriage. His new girlfriend had moved in with him less than a year ago.

Two weeks before his death, she asked him if they could get married, which they did. His mother questioned the motives behind this request.

In legal terms, dying without a will is to die intestate. The state decides what to do with your property, your bank accounts, and everything you own.

If you die without having a Will, your assets would go to your closest relatives. If Jason had died before getting married his son would have inherited his assets. Getting married before his death meant his new wife would now receive the lion’s share of his assets.

Was that what he wanted?

Why do you need an estate plan?

To provide income for any dependents or beneficiaries.

If your spouse or dependent children relied on your income while you were alive, you will want to continue to provide for them when you die. You will want to set things up well to provide for them through a stream of income or a lump sum payment. What about providing for the disabled adult child, if you had one?

Photo by Bill Oxford

An estate plan minimizes disputes among family members.

Conflict is one of the biggest fallouts with the death of a parent. A will and a proper estate plan should communicate your wishes for how you want to divide your assets.

Jennifer Thompson