If you have not made a will, you should be aware of the consequences should you die without one. Many people believe that their property will simply go to their relatives without difficulties. In reality, dying without a will can saddle your relatives with unexpected problems and costs.
The High Cost of Probate Court
Unless you have a very small and simple estate, your relatives will have to go to probate court to get your estate distributed if you die without a will. Probate court costs are more expensive if the estate has a higher value. It could cost thousands of dollars just for the estate administration, not to mention burial costs, taxes, and more. That money comes out of the estate’s total value, reducing what relatives will inherit.
Your estate may have to pay the government exorbitant estate taxes if it exceeds a certain value. U.S. citizens qualify for an estate tax exemption of $11.18 million, but non-citizen non-residents receive an exemption of only $60,000. If you are not a citizen, any amounts in your estate over that $60,000 will be taxed at a very high rate. If you make do some estate planning, you could reduce that potential liability.
Not making a will can lead to surprising inheritance issues that do not align with your wishes. In California, a person’s assets pass to relatives by intestate succession when there is no will. Intestate succession lists a specific order of relatives who inherit.
For example, your spouse is usually first in line to inherit, along with any children. But if your spouse or children have passed away before you, then more distant relatives could inherit – including your parents and more distant relations.
You may not want certain people in your family to inherit anything, or you may want them to inherit only a specific amount or asset. Some people want their spouses to get the house and a yearly allowance, while others want their children to receive everything. Without a will, there is no guarantee whatsoever that your wishes will be carried out.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.