What Happens If I Die Without A Will in Washington?
Several years ago I was preparing dinner and needed some
pepper corns. But when I checked the
pantry we were fresh out. I texted my
husband . . . “Can you swing by the store on your way home? I need: milk eggs bread pepper corns.”
About an hour later he dutifully arrived home, grocery bags
in hand. I unloaded them to find: milk,
eggs, bread, ground pepper, and frozen corn.”
Close. But not
Some folks wonder what happens to their property if they die
without a will (known as dying ‘intestate’). Knowing that some people inevitably die without a will, state
legislatures have written laws attempting to distribute property in a way they
think comes closest to what most people would do if they had written a will. The
problem is intestacy laws generally have the same result as my husband’s trip
to the store. They come close to what
people might want. But often, it’s not
quite right. Take a look at how Washington
distributes an intestate person’s assets.
If you die with:
- children but no spouse, parents or siblings, THEN your children inherit everything.
- spouse but no children, parents or siblings, THEN your spouse inherits everything.
- parents but no children, spouse, or siblings, THEN your parents inherit everything.
- siblings but no children, spouse, or parents, THEN your siblings inherit everything.
- a spouse and children, THEN your spouse inherits all of your community property and half of your separate property; children inherit half of your separate property.
- a spouse and parents, THEN your spouse inherits all of your community property and three-fourths of your separate property; your parents inherit one fourth of your separate property.
-a spouse and siblings, but no parents, THEN your spouse inherits all of your community property and three-fourths of your separate property; your siblings inherit one fourth of your separate property.
It’s easy to see how statutes like this might come “close,
but not quite” to meeting your objectives. But even if the intestate statute
mirrors your preferred asset distribution, it still may lead to undesirable
consequences—like unforeseen taxes, interference with a spouse’s or child’s
ability to access public benefits, or the distribution of money to children who
are not old enough to use it responsibly. When it comes to leaving assets for the people you love,
it is critical not to leave things to chance. Get it right. Talk to an attorney and take the time to
get your estate planning documents in order.