Updated: Feb 4
In my experience, the most common misconception married people have is the belief that if they die intestate (without a will) their assets will automatically and by operation of law go to their surviving spouse. For this reason, they don't seem to appreciate the importance of having a Will since they believe their spouse will receive their property if they die intestate anyway. This is not always the case.
This mistaken belief has the potential to create all types of problems related to unintended and/or ill-advised inheritances. For example, younger children from a previous relationship may unintentionally inherit a significant percentage of your estate free of the protections of a Trust. There is also the possibility of older children from a previous relationship with issues such as substance abuse inheriting a portion of your estate. In such an instance, you would likely not intend for a troubled child to receive a share of your assets for obvious reasons. Moreover, dying intestate may result in a surviving parent receiving an inheritance which may render that parent ineligible for Medicaid benefits they may need for long term nursing home care.
An additional issue arises if both spouses tragically die together- in a car accident, for example. Without a will, you are not able to designate guardians for your minor children. This would also be true if you spouse pre-deceased you. It would be left to the Courts to decide who the legal guardians of your children would be. In such a case, the court designated guardians may not coincide with your wishes.
In order to retain control over the disposition of your estate and the care and guardianship of any minor children, you should consult with an experienced attorney. James Sweeney Esq. & Associates offers free consultations. We also offer discounted legal services to first responders, veterans, and teachers- all of whom we consider America's Finest!