If you have no estate plan and are married and have no children, or if you are married and all of your children are also the children of your spouse, your spouse will inherit everything that passes through your probate.
You may be able to avoid a probate if everything you own is held jointly with right of survivorship or has a pay on death designation.
If something passes through a probated estate, however, your personal representative or executor will have to post a bond if you have no Will. This bond can often cost thousands of dollars, but this bond can often be waived if you direct in your Will that it should be waived.
If you have children who are not also the children of your spouse, and you have no estate plan, half of your assets will go to your children, and half will go to your spouse.
Remember, step children who have not been adopted are not related to their step parent for purposes of intestate inheritance. If you think of your step children as your own children, you will want to specifically name them in a Will or trust.
On the other hand, if you have children who are not the children of your spouse, and you want your spouse to have everything you own after you die, you will also need a Will or a trust.
If you do not have a spouse, your assets will all go to your children if you die without an estate plan.
If you have neither a spouse nor descendants, however, your assets will go to your parents, or, if they are already gone, to more distant relatives, like siblings, or nieces and nephews, or aunts and uncles, or cousins.
Often this is not what is desired. Often it is unwise to give money from your estate to elderly parents. Often, when you get to more distant relatives, there are one or more whom you do not want to benefit, or who would need to be protected by a trust because they are under the age of what you may consider discretion, or because they are not good with money.
A good estate plan can cost several thousand dollars. That amount can be often saved in the avoidance of the need for a bond after you die. Quite apart from this, ensuring that the assets go to the person(s) you really wish to benefit, or ensuring that your assets won’t pass to a child, without restriction, immediately upon their 18th birthday, when the asset might be rapidly spent in ways a more mature person might think was unwise, can be well worth the cost.
In addition, in extreme cases, where a person dies with assets totaling a million or more dollars, a well articulated estate plan can often save thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of Oregon state estate tax.
Steven A. Heinrich
Divorce & Custody
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