What Happens If You Die Without A Plan?

Hi there, my name is Bridget MacKay. I’m an attorney serving Novato and San Rafael in California. I practice in the area of estate planning, drafting wills, trusts, and helping elders with elder law. Today, I want to talk to you about dying without planning. What happens? “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”, and that was a quote by Benjamin Franklin, and it’s true. Ideally, your death will happen when you’re of an old age after a well-lived life but sometimes after illness, long or short, and many times unexpectedly from accidents, heart attacks and other tragedies, we find our loved ones or ourselves really not in a situation but leaving something behind.

What happens though if we do this and we have no plan in place? If your death was preceded by any period of incapacity where you couldn’t handle your affairs, your family couldn’t access any funds to help you without a durable power of attorney for finances. So no bank or financial institution would talk to them without it. Second, your family may not be able to carry out your health wishes without an advanced healthcare directive or in some cases your family can make the decisions regarding the end of your life but the person you want to be making those decisions, which might not be your family, won’t be able to make those decisions.

Third, when you die, a probate court will appoint your executor and it will dictate how your assets are going to be distributed to your heirs because you have left no legal instructions to direct otherwise. Fourth, at the distribution of your assets, they’re going to be predetermined by law. Typically, in most states and in California, it’s some form of spouse then children and then if neither of those exist, your family of origin in some variation or another. If people have unmarried partners that they’ve been with forever, they would get nothing. And finally, without a will, you have no input on who physically raises your minor children or if you have an adult child with special needs, who takes care of them?

So think about these things because it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. You can choose to plan and care for those you love or you can leave it to chance. Your hard-earned assets and your children, I believe, are too important to you to be left without a plan. So go see a qualified estate planning attorney today and get that plan in place.

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