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Estate planning: What it means to die without a will

Dying can make things complicated for the living. When West Virginia residents ignore estate planning, they may be leaving their loved ones with much more than heartache. Dying without a last will and testament gives the state a lot of say in what may happen to one's assets.

The West Virginia Code spells out who will inherit a probate estate in the Mountain State when residents do not make their wishes clear in a last will and testament. In many instances, a surviving spouse will inherit all assets. In other instances, a spouse will inherit one-third of the estate and only half the estate in other cases.

If a deceased person has no spouse or descendants, next in line are parents or siblings or any other family members. If someone dies intestate (without a will) and has no takers under the intestate statute, the entire estate will go to the State of West Virginia. Those who die without a will may be leaving their loved ones to face a lengthy process before getting anything from their estate.

Even is someone is entitled to a piece of the pie, he or she may not inherit a thing. If the deceased person left only non-probate property, the intestate statute would not apply. Another problem would arise if the deceased left debts at the time of death that exceed the value of the estate. The estate, in this case, would be insolvent, and there would be nothing to disperse to heirs. 

Estate planning is vital when taking care of loved ones left behind after death. A West Virginia attorney experienced in wills and estate planning will be able to answer all queries and help in fashioning an estate plan for his or her individual clients. A lawyer will guide clients in all estate planning steps.

Source: thebalance.com, "Dying Without a Last Will and Testament", Julie Garber, Accessed on Sept. 22, 2017

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