Monday, November 26, 2012
WHY Don't They Make a Will???
WHO SHOULD MAKE A WILL AND WHY DON’T THEY?
WHY….do people who have no close family, and who think their distant relatives “don’t care about them”, frequently neglect to make a will, die with a lot of money, resulting in these same distant relatives inheriting their money?
WHY…..don’t people who have “nobody to leave my money to” make bequests to charity?
WHY…..do some people have such a pathological abhorrence to paying attorneys fees, that they accept heavy financial consequences when an ounce of prevention would have led to a better result?
WHY…..do people hold family grudges for years and never make the first move towards resolving the issues?
I know, I ask these sarcastic “why” questions. The kind of questions we could all probably answer, but what would it accomplish?
What happens when a person dies without a Will? Contrary to popular misconception, their assets do NOT “go to the State”. When there is no will, and a person dies, the laws of intestacy apply. All States have such laws, essentially a logical order of priority for how the closest relatives inherit. In New York, it goes roughly like this:
- if a spouse and no children, all to the spouse
- if children and no spouse, all to the children
- if spouse and children, first $50,000 to the spouse, then 50/50 spouse/children
- if no spouse or children, all to the parent(s)
- if no parents, all to siblings (or children of predeceased siblings)
- if no siblings or nieces/nephews, you start getting to aunts/uncles and cousins.
The above is a rough sketch, and there are rules to cover EVERY situation you could think of, and they ALL come up. It is almost impossible for there not to be at least SOME cousins. It is actually fairly common to have an older person who never married or had children, whose parents are long gone, and who either had no siblings, or outlived them all. If a person like this does not make a will, their cousins inherit!!! This is a special situation called a "kinship matter". In law school the professors called such inheritors “laughing heirs”. Everyone laughs about this in law school, and probably thinks it some obscure situation that never happens in real life.
Experience teaches otherwise…..