The passing of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh created a shock that rippled across the business community. At just 46, Hsieh died from injuries sustained during a house fire. Recently retired, Hsieh left behind an estate worth an estimated $840 million – with NO WILL!
When musical icon Prince died more than four years ago, he also passed without a will. Years later his estate is still unsettled, still not officially valued and still not disbursed to the heirs six siblings. Instead, platoons of lawyers worked on it for more than three years, racking up bills, arguing with each other, the heirs, and with consultants hired to advise on various estate matters. They have filed blizzards of documents and paperwork with the local probate court.
Dying without a will is often an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare. Already grieving family members and loved ones often spend years sorting out another’s final wishes. With no will or estate plan in place, it is tricky to know exactly how to distribute an estate.
A carefully prepared will lends a voice to your wishes. It lets you decide where your assets and belongings go and who you elect to carry out your final wishes. If you die without one, you surrender control to the state where you lived. Its laws will determine who your heirs will be and though individuals can petition to be the administrator, the state will choose the executor of your estate.
When a person dies without having a valid will in place, their property passes according to what is called “intestate succession” to heirs according to state law. In other words, if you don’t have a will, the state will make one for you. All fifty states have these kinds of laws or statutes on the books.
For example, if you die without a will in California, your assets will go to your closest relatives, and how this plays out will depend on whether the deceased person is survived by a spouse, descendants, siblings, and/or parents. Only assets that would have passed through your will are affected by intestate succession laws. Typically, this includes only assets that you own alone, in your own name. Assets that have a beneficiary or co-owner will go to that person. Examples of these might include, life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, or securities held in a transfer-on-death account.
The word ‘estate’ may conjure a sense of grandiose, like the hundreds of millions of dollars both Hsieh and Prince had upon passing. But estate planning is not just imperative for the wealthy. An estate plan makes things easier for your loved ones in an already difficult time. It designates where your financial accounts, real estate and possessions go. Not everything is encompassed in a will, which is why a comprehensive estate plan will take into consideration ALL of your finances. For example, a 401(k), individual retirement accounts and life insurance policies pass outside of the will.
At Velasco Law Group, our experienced attorneys will work with you to create a comprehensive estate plan including wills, trusts, and other documents that ensures your financial goals and wishes will be carried out when you pass. It’s important to keep these documents up to date so that when you acquire new assets they are accounted for and the beneficiaries listed remain accurate to your desires too. Taking care of your end-of-life care and how can be directed by you as well, through advanced health care directives and HIPAA authorizations. This may save your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions. Velasco Law Group will work with you to create a personalized estate plan that makes sense for you and your loved ones. Life is full of unexpected events, but this is one aspect you can plan for. Contact us now here to create or update your estate plan.