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What if someone dies without a will on record in Virginia?

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2024 | Estate Planning

A will allows someone to decide what happens with their property after they die. They can choose specific people to inherit certain resources from their estate. Those with minor children can also name a guardian to assume their parental responsibilities if they die while their children are young.

People often take for granted that they have plenty of time to establish an estate plan. They may fail to consider how unpredictable life can actually be. Some people die decades before their likely life expectancy due to sudden illness or accidents. Many people eventually pass away without drafting an estate plan.

The law addresses dying without a will

It is quite common for people to procrastinate about estate planning. Dying while intestate or without a will is a somewhat common occurrence. Some researchers estimate that as many as two-thirds of adults do not have a will or other estate planning paperwork.

If someone dies in Virginia without an estate plan, state statutes determine what happens with their property. The Virginia probate courts oversee intestate succession. The law focuses primarily on the protection of close family members. Spouses and children, for example, tend to inherit most or all of someone’s property if they die without a will. For those who have not married or had children, their parents or siblings might inherit from their estate instead.

People in a variety of circumstances may feel like intestate succession laws do not meet their needs. Someone estranged from their parents or children may want to create an estate plan to ensure that their assets pass to people with whom they maintain positive relationships. Those who do not marry their romantic partners and those who want to leave money for charitable causes may also have strong incentives to draft wills.

Most people are happier with the degree of control they can exert by drafting their own estate planning documents instead of relying on state law. Learning more about Virginia’s unique probate statutes can help people decide when to draft estate plans and what details they need to include in them.