Hey there!

I recently came across a shocking report that revealed two-thirds of Americans don’t have a will or any estate planning documents in place. Can you believe that? It means many families are exposed to significant risks if something were to happen unexpectedly.

This study by Caring.com found that more than half of individuals had never even thought about estate planning. It’s like we’re playing a game of chance with our family’s future. When someone passes away without a will, families face a postcode lottery, depending on their state’s laws.

For example, New York, Alaska, Georgia, and Tennessee are ranked as the worst places to die without a will due to complicated guardianship laws. In those states, if there’s no will, a child might be forced to live with a court-designated guardian instead of their preferred choice.

Probate laws also play a significant role in handling a deceased person’s estate. New Jersey, for instance, scores poorly in the probate category, leaving families waiting for over a year to see the process through. And in New Mexico, it could take up to two years! Not to mention the high inheritance tax rates in some states, making matters even more complicated.

On the bright side, some states like Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas are ranked as the least risky places to die without a will. They have low probate processing times and minimal inheritance taxes. Iowa, for instance, handles most estates in less than a year, and there’s no estate tax at all.

So, what happens if someone dies without a will? Their estate is considered “in intestacy,” and a court-appointed administrator will take charge of the assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining estate to beneficiaries following the state’s rules.

Now, here’s the kicker. Nine states follow “community property” laws, meaning a spouse automatically owns half of what they earned during the marriage. In these states, when one spouse passes away, half of their estate goes to the partner, while the other half is split among other beneficiaries. On the other hand, 38 states apply “common law” policies, which don’t necessarily entitle the spouse to half of the assets.

This report should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. We can’t leave our family’s future to chance. That’s why I’m urging you to take action and secure your greatest treasure: your family’s legacy. Don’t wait any longer—contact me, Jennifer Norton, at Norton Estate Planning & Elder Law, and let’s get started on your estate planning journey. It’s never too late to protect your loved ones and ensure that they are taken care of according to your wishes.

Remember, estate planning is about securing peace of mind and protecting the ones we love. Let’s make sure your family is well cared for, no matter what life throws our way.