Estate Law Lawyer

It can be daunting to think about creating a law will and testament in the event of your death. Taking into account your assets and considering your beneficiaries can seem like a monumental task when you don’t know where to begin. Let’s start simply: Having a will can make the lives of your loved ones easier after your passing and will make your last wishes known so that you can have peace of mind.

What happens if you die without a will?

If you don’t leave behind a will, your estate will be known as “intestate.” That means that your estate is in the hands of the laws in the state you reside in, and that those laws will determine how and to whom your assets will be distributed. These laws vary depending on your marital status at the time of your death.

If you are…

Married Without Children

If you own your property with your spouse, your estate will go entirely to them, but if you do not both own the property, it will be divided evenly between your partner, parents, and siblings.  

Married With Children

This one can be more complicated than you would think. If your children are all the children of your surviving spouse, your estate will simply be inherited by your surviving spouse, but if your children are not all shared with your spouse, things are a bit different. Your spouse would get up to 50% of the estate and the rest would go to the the surviving children from the other spouse or partner.

In a Domestic Partnership

Not all states recognize domestic partnerships, so it’s important to check your state laws, but if domestic partners are recognized in your state, your partner would inherit your estate in the same way a married couple would.  

Unmarried, but in a Relationship

If you are unmarried but in a relationship and living together at the time of your death and you choose not to leave a will, that means that your partner does not inherit any of your assets. Intestacy laws only recognize relatives and not unmarried couples.

Single Without Children

If you are single and without children, then your estate will pass on to your parents (if they are both living). If one parent is deceased, the estate gets divided among your surviving parent and the rest of your siblings. If both parents are deceased, then the estate is divided amongst the surviving siblings. If there are no surviving  parents, siblings, or children of siblings, then the estate will be split in half with 50% going to relatives on your father’s side and the other 50% going to relatives on your mother’s side. If you have no family at all, then the estate is often given over to the state.

Single With Children

If you are single with children at the time of your passing, the estate will pass on to your children and split among them equally.

As you can see, passing without a will means that you do not really have a say in how your estate is divided amongst your loved ones. It could be helpful to talk to an attorney at an estate planning law firm St. Peters, Missouri relies on to discuss the specifics of your case so that you can figure out what would be the best fit for you.


Thank you to our friends and contributors at Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning and what it means to not have a will.