What happens if you die without a will?
Dying without a will means that your death is “intestate.” The laws of intestate succession forfeit estate decisions to the courts while they control your assets and distribute them as they see fit. In Oklahoma, the laws of succession allow for real and personal property to be passed to the heirs of the intestate. The property is held in the possession and control of the district court while the court administers the property to the correct parties.
In Oklahoma, the state only obtains your property through intestate succession if you have no family at all. As long as you have relatives, even if they are only half-relatives, your relatives will inherit the intestate property before the state does. Intestate property is what the assets you left behind are called if you died intestate. What your relatives receive depends on what combination of a spouse, parents, or descendants exist. Descendants are your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you named beneficiaries in your insurance or retirement benefits, the lack of a will does not change those dispersals.
A spouse will inherit all of your intestate property if your parents are no longer living and there are no descendants. No matter who else is living, your spouse is always entitled to inherit at least one of your vehicles. If you have children with your spouse, the spouse will inherit half of your property and your descendants will receive the rest. If one of those children is not from the marriage with your current spouse, the spouse inherits half of all the property acquired by joint effort during the marriage and the rest of the property is split with all descendants.
For your children to inherit under the laws of intestate in succession, they must be considered by the state of Oklahoma to legally be your children. If you are a father, any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child. Children born outside of marriage must be acknowledged by the father or paternity is somehow else proved under law. Adopted children are treated the same as biologic children, though stepchildren must be legally adopted to receive a share of the intestate property. Grandchildren only inherit if the child of the deceased is not alive. If you have no spouse, your descendants inherit everything.
Without children, your property is then shared amongst your spouse, parents, and siblings. If you are married and your parents are still alive, your spouse inherits all property that was acquired jointly during your marriage and one-third of the rest while your parents inherit everything else. If you are married and have siblings, your siblings inherit whatever is left after your spouse inherits all property that was acquired jointly during your marriage and one-third of the everything else. If you have parents but no spouse or descendants, your parents inherit everything. If you have siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, then your siblings inherit everything.
If you die intestate, it means that that the courts determine what will happen to your estate. It means family members that you may not want to receive your property will get it, possibly to the detriment of those you do want to inherit your property. It means you will not be the one to determine who will be the legal guardian of any minor children or how your children should receive their shares of your property. Even if this disbursement is exactly how you would want your estate to pass on, it means that your heirs are at the mercy of estate taxes they may have been protected from and a lengthier than necessary probate process while completely at the discretion of the court and not your final wishes.
It's not the end of the world, but it could be done better!
To protect yourself and your family from these complications, call Udoka Law to find the estate plan that best fits your needs and gain peace of mind.