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What happens if someone dies in Virginia without a will?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Estate Planning & Probate

Procrastination is part of human nature, and many otherwise responsible adults delay completing actions that they find unpleasant as a result. Few activities are more stressful than deeply contemplating one’s own eventual death or medical incapacitation. However, that is exactly what someone must do if they want to put together an effective state plan in Virginia.

People sometimes set arbitrary standards about estate planning, telling themselves that it will be worth doing once they buy a home or have children. Yet, people’s financial and family circumstances continue to change throughout their lives, and waiting until everything seems stable to plan for one’s death or incapacity could very well mean that someone dies without a will or other estate planning documents on record. What happens after someone dies in Virginia without any estate plan in place?

The state decides what happens with their property

One of the most important motivations people cite for estate planning is that they want to provide specific types of support for their dependent family members after their passing. An estate plan allows someone to leave resources for loved ones who aren’t related to them and to directly control who receives which assets from their estate.

When someone dies without a will, Virginia intestate succession laws then determine what happens with their property. The law largely focuses on the protection of immediate family members. Surviving spouses and children have the strongest inheritance rights under Virginia law, but parents and other family members can also inherit from someone’s estate if they die while unmarried and have no children.

The focus on immediate family members could mean that someone’s estranged parents inherit all of their assets or that they are unable to provide any form of practical support for their long-term romantic partner whom they never married. In scenarios where the state cannot locate any surviving family members, the assets in someone’s estate may eventually become the property of the state of Virginia.

Most people dislike the idea of the government having the final say in who receives property from their estate when they die. Taking the time to put together a will and then occasionally updating it as the situation requires will help to give someone control over the legacy they leave and the protection they can provide for their dependent loved ones.