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What happens if you die without a will?
Most likely there will be uncertainty, conflict, anger, and hurt feelings among your family members or others who hoped to inherit from you or to at least be left with that special something to remember you by. In short, the Ruckus happens if you die without a will…
Maybe you share Snoop Dogg’s point of view – the Ruckus won’t affect me after I’m gone:
“I don’t give a f— when I’m dead. What am I gonna give a f— about?” Snoop told Business Insider. “This goin’ on while I’m gone, you know?”
Snoop hopes to be reincarnated [as a butterfly], and observe the ruckus over his estate from the next life.
On the other hand, if you are like most people, if you do care about what happens to your loved ones after you are gone, and if you want to stop the Ruckus before it starts, you probably need to have a will in place.
If you die without a will in SC, the intestacy statutes found in the SC probate code will determine what happens to your belongings and how your estate is probated. You will not get a choice as to who oversees your estate, who inherits which of your possessions, who will take care of your minor children, who will be responsible for your pets, or what type of funeral service you have.
More importantly, a death without a will in place can result in bitter fighting among family members, challenges in the probate court, attorney fees for family members who are making claims against your estate, and tensions that can tear a family apart, sometimes permanently.
What does SC law say happens when you die without a will?
It’s complicated, and, if you find yourself in a situation where a parent or other relative passed away with no will in place, you may find yourself looking for a probate attorney to protect your rights and ensure that your loved one’s assets are not being taken by people with no claim to them…
If you are married and have no children, your current spouse takes everything. Any gifts that you want made to other family members, friends, former spouses, or charities will not happen unless your current spouse chooses to make the gift.
If you are married and have children, the children will receive equal shares of one-half of your estate:
The intestate share of the surviving spouse is:
(1) if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the entire intestate estate;
(2) if there are surviving issue, one-half of the intestate estate.
If there are no children or surviving spouse, the entire estate will pass to your parents. If there are no parents, it passes to your siblings. If there are no children, spouse, parents, or siblings, it passes equally to both maternal and paternal grandparents. If the grandparents are deceased, it passes to your aunts and uncles. If there are no aunts and uncles, it passes to your great-grandparents and their children.
Depending on who is available to inherit your possessions, which relatives get how much of your estate may be determined by their degree of kinship:
The part of the intestate estate not passing to the surviving spouse under Section 62-2-102, or the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse, passes as follows:
(1) to the issue of the decedent: if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent they take equally, but if of unequal degree then those of more remote degree take by representation;
(2) if there is no surviving issue, to his parent or parents equally;
(3) if there is no surviving issue or parent, to the issue of the parents or either of them by representation;
(4) if there is no surviving issue, parent or issue of a parent, but the decedent is survived by one or more grandparents or issue of grandparents, half of the estate passes to the paternal grandparents if both survive, or to the surviving paternal grandparent, or to the issue of the paternal grandparents if both are deceased, the issue taking equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent, but if of unequal degree those of more remote degree take by representation; and the other half passes to the maternal relatives in the same manner; but if there be no surviving grandparent or issue of grandparent on either the paternal or the maternal side, the entire estate passes to the relatives on the other side in the same manner as the half;
(5) if there is no surviving issue, parent or issue of a parent, grandparent or issue of a grandparent, but the decedent is survived by one or more great-grandparents or issue of great-grandparents, half of the estate passes to the surviving paternal great-grandparents in equal shares, or to the surviving paternal great-grandparent if only one survives, or to the issue of the paternal great-grandparents if none of the great-grandparents survive, the issue taking equally if they are all of the same degree of kinship to the decedent, but if of unequal degree those of more remote degree take by representation; and the other half passes to the maternal relatives in the same manner; but if there be no surviving great-grandparent or issue of a great-grandparent on either the paternal or the maternal side, the entire estate passes to the relatives on the other side in the same manner as the half.
If there are no surviving relatives available to inherit, the government takes your property and sells it…
If you are married, and you want your spouse to take all your estate to manage for your children until your spouse’s death, you must specify this in your will.
On the other hand, if you want certain possessions to go to certain children after your death, you must specify that in your will.
If you have minor children, who will care for them if you do not have a spouse or if your spouse dies at the same time as you? If you do not have a will that specifies who their guardian will be, the family court will make that decision for you…
Who will care for your pets when you are gone?
If you do not specify a relative or other caretaker who is willing to take them, your pets may end up in an animal shelter or even euthanized after you die.
If you are concerned about creating a financial burden for the person who will take your pets, you can even create a trust – naming the human who will care for the pets – to pass along money that must be used for the care of your pets.
The most obvious benefit of having a will is the ability to choose who receives your possessions after you are gone. Every person has unique circumstances and wishes that they would like to be followed after their death – wishes that may not be honored if there is no will:
Is it important to you that you have a Christian burial and funeral service that is open to the public? What if you want to be cremated after your death and have your ashes scattered in a special place?
Your relatives may have strong feelings about what should happen to your body after your death, and their beliefs may not be the same as your own – if you do not specify what you want to happen to your body after your death and what type of service you would like to have, the executor of your estate will make that choice for you.
If you die without a will in place, odds are the Ruckus will happen. Snoop Dogg may not care, but I do. I bet you do, as well.
Grief, greed, hurt feelings, and strong emotions can and often do tear a family apart when a loved one dies with no will in place. People to whom you had no intention of leaving your things may show up and make claims on your estate. Your children and other relatives may let their emotions get the best of them, and the fights that begin after your death may last the rest of their lives – I’ve seen it happen, and you’ve probably seen it or experienced it yourself.
Although there may still be challenges to your will and there may be disagreements among family members, you can do your part to preserve the family’s peace and avoid the Ruckus by making your wishes crystal clear before you die.
If you do not have an estate plan in place, or if you need to review, update, or improve an existing estate plan, call your estate planning and probate attorney at Axelrod and Associates today at 843-353-3449 or complete our contact form to set up an initial consultation.
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