“Intestacy” is the term used when one dies without a valid last will. Some people are under the impression that the government takes your property if you die estate. The reality is that legal rules of descent determine who will inherit your property. If you are married your closest relative is your surviving spouse and he or she will inherit some or all of your property, depending on whether you have children, if you die without a will.
This does not mean there’s no reason for you to create an estate plan if you are married. The best way to pass on your assets depends on the types of assets and what you want to happen. You may want to provide for other family members in addition to your spouse. And there is your health care to consider. Even married people need to have advance health care directives in place. All this having been stated, if you’re married and you die without a will, the rules of descent will probably distribute most of your property to the person or person to which you would have left it anyway.
What about people who live together in domestic partnerships for many years and even multiple decades who are in totally committed relationships? For whatever reason they do not get married, and as such they are not protected by the rules of descent. Estate planning is an absolute must for these individuals.
If you pass away without an estate plan in place your partner may have no legal standing. If you become ill, he or she may not be able to make medical decisions on your behalf either. The good news is that you can proactively assert your preferences by sitting down with an experienced estate planning attorney who will make sure your wishes are honored, both in sickness and in death.
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