Where There’s a Will, There’s No Intestate Succession

July 28th, 2015 by Bunch & Brock

If you don’t have a will, you’re not alone. According to a survey released last year by Rocket Lawyer, 64 percent of Americans have not taken the time to draft one. Further, the survey revealed that just about half of married Americans with children had no will, while more than 80 percent of single Americans with children did not have one. And the reasons likely sound familiar:

  • 57 percent said they “just haven’t gotten around to making one.”
  • 22 percent felt that making a will wasn’t urgent.
  • 17 percent didn’t think they needed a will.
  • 14 percent don’t have a will because they don’t want to think about death.

Whatever your reason may be, whether you’re married or single, whether you have children or not, whatever your income bracket, the truth is, you need a will. The reservations you have now pale in comparison to the problems that can come once you are gone. You work hard for your money. Why give up control over what will happen to the assets you spent your life building?

So, what happens if you die without a will?

The state applies its rules of “intestate succession,” which is a legal way of referring to how your property will be distributed by the court.

In Kentucky, the children of an unmarried person inherit everything. This includes adopted children, but not foster children or stepchildren if they were never legally adopted. If you are married and have children, your spouse gets one-half of your property and your children get the other half. If you have more than one child, the half they receive will be divided equally among them. If you are married, childless, and your parents are living, your spouse gets one-half of your property and your parents get the other half. If you are unmarried and have no children, your parents inherit everything.

Siblings also have inheritance rights when the person who dies is married but has no children or parents, or when the decedent has no spouse, children, or parents. In the rare situation when a person doesn’t have any even remotely related family, his or her property goes to the state.

Perhaps even more important than property distribution, wills are the tools by which parents can name a guardian for their children. If a child’s parents die without a will, the court will decide on a guardian based on criteria similar to what is used in a custody case. Family members are usually preferred, and they have the right to file a petition for the appointment. If only one parent dies, the surviving parent retains custody of the child, even if the parents are divorced. If the parents were never married, the child’s other biological parent can petition, which will likely be granted unless he or she is found to be unfit. Is that what you want for your child?

Laws of intestacy don’t always follow what would have been a decedent’s wishes. If you do not want Kentucky’s default intestacy laws to determine how your property is divided or who will raise your child, you should have a will. For the past 35 years, the Fayette County estate lawyers at Bunch & Brock attorneys have guided many people through the estate planning process efficiently and effectively. To get started, or if you have any questions about this topic, call Bunch & Brock at 859-254-5522. You can also fill out this online form.

Attorney Tom Bunch II

Tom is a well-rounded attorney who can bring his experience to bear upon circumstances as presented by a client. Tom practices in Debtor and Creditor Legal Issues arising in Bankruptcy (with extensive experience in Chapter 7, 11, 12 and 13 cases, aka Personal Bankruptcy and Corporate Bankruptcy) and non-bankruptcy matters (loan workouts and foreclosure defense, debt relief and debt settlement). [ Attorney Bio ]