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What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

There are many benefits to having a will put in place, such as designating to whom your property will go and naming a guardian for your children. However, there are no benefits to leaving your estate unattended. At Golightly Mulligan & Morgan, an experienced estate planning lawyer can make estate planning understandable and approachable while protecting your loved ones and property.

Consequences of Dying Without a Will

A will dictates how your property will be distributed upon your passing. If you die without a will, Virginia’s default rules will be followed rather than you being able to determine what happens to your property. If a married person dies without a will and has children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse is only entitled to one-third of the decedent’s estate and the decedent’s children will receive the other two-thirds. If the person has no children, or only has joint children with the current spouse, the surviving spouse will receive the entire estate. If the person has children and no spouse, the children will inherit the entire estate.

If the decedent was not married and had no children or grandchildren, the laws of intestacy in Virginia give the estate to the following family members in this order:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Nieces and Nephews, and so on down the line

If you have no living family members, your estate goes to the Commonwealth of Virginia. As you can see from these default rules, there may be unintended consequences of not having a will, such as your property going to a family member with whom you are not close.

Drafting of Your Last Will and Testament

The easiest way to avoid these consequences is to draft a last will and testament that establishes how you want your property distributed. An estate planning attorney can draft this document for you to ensure that it has full legal effect.

Estate Planning Trusts

An alternative or supplement to your last will and testament is to use an estate planning trust. There are several different types of trusts for estate planning that our trust and estate attorney may recommend, depending on your individual circumstances. Some trust options may include:

  • Living revocable trust
  • Irrevocable trust
  • Charitable trust
  • Marital trust
  • Bypass trust
  • Generation-skipping trust

Our estate planning attorney can discuss the options that are available to you and which type of trust makes sense for you.

Contact an Experienced Attorney for Wills and Trusts

At Golightly Mulligan & Morgan, we are committed to providing effective trust and estate planning strategies that are designed to protect your interests. We listen compassionately to our clients’ wishes and guide them through the laws and obstacles that may affect those wishes. We know that you have your choice of estate planning firms and would like you to consider our trust and estate attorney to provide you with a customized estate plan. We prepare wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents. We also provide assistance in estate tax planning and throughout the probate process for surviving family members. If necessary, we can also assist with the appointment of guardians and conservators for incapacitated individuals.

Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future cases. Also, nothing in this website creates an attorney/client relationship, and you should not leave anything of a confidential nature on this website.

Get In Touch

Golightly Mulligan and Morgan, PLC
(804) 658-3873

Richmond Office:
2016 John Rolfe Parkway
Richmond, VA 23238

Virginia Beach Office: 
1244 Perimeter Parkway, Suite 441
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23454


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