What happens to my possessions when I die?

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A will gives direction to the lawful allocation of assets to its beneficiaries. As its your assets and your intentions, you play a vital role in setting up your will plan. First off, you will need to set up certain directives as regards the main aspects of your “estate”.  This includes your financial assets, mortgages, debts, personal commitments, real estate, business affiliations and many more.

What happens to your stuff when you die?

When you pass, all properties belonging to you will be enlisted as an “estate”. Your estate will be distributed to your beneficiaries as stated in your will. The process is championed by an executor assigned by you.

Existing Regulations

Certain standards exist as regards will writing. For example, you could choose not to assign certain portions of your assets to your spouse or children. But if assets are left unassigned, your spouse and children still have a right to claim them as it may be  perceived that your obligation as a spouse or parent has been left unfulfilled.

Testator: somebody that creates a will.

Intestate: somebody that has passed away without creating a will he/she.

Executor: someone who is appointed by the testator to execute the contents of the will plan according to law.

Administrator:  someone appointed to dispose the assets of the estate in the event that a will doesn’t exist. In most cases the administrator is usually a next of kin, a lawyer or a spouse.

Below is a list of members who may be appointed as the administrator by the court;

  1. Parent
  2. Child
  3. A distant relative 
  4. Brother or sister
  5. Spouse

Does everything go to your spouse?

As much as we hate discussing death, it can happen anytime given the unforeseen uncertainties of life.  Therefore we should scribe the wishes we want to be carried out when we pass on. Without this, questions like “Will everything go to my spouse when I die?” pop my in our minds. To answer directly, a significant portion of your estate will allocated to them and less so to your children, if you have any.

However, a will gives you the opportunity to decide who gets certain portions of your assets. So if you would want your spouse to inherit only specified portions of your estate there are procedures to follow. Let’s consider different legal rights as regards different kinds of assets.

Probate Assets

A probate asset is an inheritable asset under the dictates of a written will or state intestacy laws. So basically you may include your spouse in your will so they have access to your probate assets when you pass on.  If your spouse dies without a will, the state intestacy laws intervenes by regulating the allocation of probate assets. 

Non-Probate Assets

Inheritance of probate asset is based on a signed contract, it may surface in three forms i.e. jointly-held assets, assets inside trust or assets with beneficiaries. Let’s discuss them in further details below

Jointly-held assets

This asset exists as a joint effort where both spouses own a set of assets i.e. real estate property, investment account, corporate business account, a vehicle, equipment etc. So in the event that one spouse dies, the other spouse gains sole ownership of the asset.

Assets inside trust

Trust agreements take effect while the testator is still alive and in the event that the person who created the trust dies, the trust agreement will determine who inherits the asset.

Assets including beneficiaries

If you have an ongoing investment account in your name, a bank account, bond, or even a life insurance policy where you have included your spouse as a beneficiary, the financial institution is obligated to transfer or pay into your chosen beneficiary’s account upon your demise.

As a bottom note, it is imperative to have a will written in accordance to your wishes. Appointing a trust worthy individual who will ensure the intentions of your will are properly executed is equally essential. Periodically you may choose to update your will as the years go by and you continually increase your assets.

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