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Wills, Trusts & Dying Intestate: How They Differ

Most people understand that having some sort of an estate plan is, as Martha Stewart would say, a “good thing.” However, many of us don’t take the steps to get that estate plan in place because we don’t understand the nuances between wills and trusts – and dying without either.

Here’s what will generally happen if you die, intestate (without a will or trust), with a will, and with a trust. For this example, we’re assuming you have children, but no spouse:

  1. Intestate. If you should die intestate, your estate will go through probate and all the world could know what you owned, what you owed, and who got what. Your mortgage company, car loan company, and credit card companies will all seek payment on balances you owed at the time of your death.

After that, state law will decide who gets what and when.

-For example, if your only heirs are your children and you have not provided any instructions, state law will mandate divvying up proceeds equally.
-Your older children will get their shares immediately if they’ve attained adulthood.
-But, the court will appoint a guardian to manage the money for your minor children until they become adults.
-Shockingly, that guardian can charge a lot of money and be a total stranger – as can the guardian who raises your child.
-Yes, if you die without a valid …