A Last Will and Testament (“LWT”) is a way to not only protect your assets, but also establish to whom your property is assign upon your death. Despite this being a vital document in your estate plan, many people never execute a LWT. While Davis, Davis & Associates, P.C. recommends having all estate planning documents prepared and fully executed, we understand that this is not always the case; if you or a loved one fall into this category, there is no need to worry about what happens to your assets when you pass. Under Alabama’s intestate succession laws, if you pass without a LWT, your assets transfer to your closest relatives.
Like many things law, intestate succession can seem pretty complicated; the most basic description is that under intestate succession, who gets what depends on which of your relatives are living. Here’s the breakdown:
|You die with a spouse but no children.
|Your spouse inherit everything.
|You die with children but no spouse.
|Your children inherit everything.
|You die with parents but no children or spouse.
|Your parents inherit everything.
|You die with siblings but no children, parents, or spouse.
|Your siblings inherit everything in equal shares.
|You die with a spouse and children that belong to you and your spouse (biological or adopted).
|Your spouse inherits the first $50,000 of your estate, plus half of the balance of your estate. After that, your children inherit the remaining balance of your estate.
|You die with a spouse and children that are not your spouse’s children (biological or adopted).
|Your spouse inherits half of your estate, leaving your children with the other half.
|You die with a spouse and parents.
|Your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your estate, plus half of the balance of your estate, leaving your parents to inherit the other half of the intestate property balance.
|You die with no living relatives.
|Your entire estate will escheat to the State of Alabama.
Because intestate succession is only affected by assets that pass through probate, even if you pass without a LWT, there are parts of your estate that won’t be affected. For example, passing with or without a LWT would not impact any of the following:
- Living Trust Property
- Life Insurance Proceeds or Retirement Accounts with a Named Beneficiary
- Trust Assets
- Property in Life Estates
- Any Property in Which You Are a Joint Tenant
End of life plans can often intimidate some, leading many to completely ignoring the estate planning process. In order to avoid the intestate succession process, schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning options. However, if you know someone that has passed without a LWT, give us a call to help you navigate the intestate succession process at 251-621-1555.