Our Law Firm often gets calls from people whose parents have passed away and did not leave a will or a trust. Many wonder what happens to the estate in that situation. In Virginia, if somebody dies without leaving a will or a trust, any assets solely owned by the decedent that did not have a beneficiary designation will be subject to Virginia’s intestate succession laws and will require going through probate for a determination to be made about how those assets will be distributed to any surviving beneficiaries.

What Will Happen to Your Assets?

If you die without a will or a trust in Virginia, your assets will go to your closest relative. If you owned any properties in joint tenancy with someone else or assets that contained a transferable on death or payable on death designation, those would be passed on directly to your beneficiaries and would not be required to go through probate, regardless of whether or not you had a will. Only those assets that would have been contained in your will would be divided according to Virginia’s intestate succession laws.

For example, if you died and left behind a surviving spouse but no children, Your spouse would inherit everything. If you only left behind children, but your spouse has already passed away gamma the children would then be entitled to inheriting all of your assets. If you are survived by both a spouse and children, your spouse would then inherit everything. If you left behind children from a previous marriage along with children from the current marriage, your spouse would be entitled to receive one-third of your estate and the remainder would be divided among your descendants.

How Much Will Your Spouse Receive?

So if you die without a will or a trust in Virginia, how much your spouse gets will depend on whether or not you have any living descendants, including children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren that are not related to your spouse (e.g. if you have been married more than once). In rare situations where every attempt has been made to locate potential beneficiaries and any close or distant relatives have not been identified, the state will then escheat your property, meaning it will be reverted back to the state if you die without any heirs.

How Can an Estate Planning Lawyer Help?

Having a will or a trust can make things easier for your family when it is time to determine what will happen with your estate. At a time when they are grieving, having to deal with intestate probate is time-consuming and adds another layer of stress to an already emotionally-charged situation. The Johnson Law Firm, PC has been assisting many families in the Gainesville and Woodbridge, VA area to craft their estate plans and protect their legacy, while making sure their wishes are respected and that important decisions are not left up to a judge but clearly recorded on your will. Contact us for a consultation today and get more peace of mind to enjoy life knowing your estate plans will be there when needed.