In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding family law, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
What Happens If I Die Without Creating A Will?
Should you fail to create a last will and testament before your death, then your existing estate will be divvied up among your surviving heirs according to the intestacy laws of the state where you are residing at the time of your death and the laws of any additional states where you own real estate or personal property. Furthermore, if you have minor children, and both your spouse and you pass away before your children become legal adults, then a New Hampshire probate judge will determine who obtains custody of your children and who will manage their inheritance on their behalf until they reach the age of 18.
So what exactly is wrong with this scenario? In many instances, New Hampshire’s intestacy laws will produce different results than what you would have desired if you had simply invested the time in creating a last will and testament. Moreover, if you own personal property or real estate outside of your home state, then your estate could be divided among two different sets of beneficiaries.
What If I Don’t Own Any Property Outside of My Home State?
If you only own personal property and real estate within your home state, or if you do not own real estate at all, then the beneficiaries who inherit your estate will be determined solely by New Hampshire’s intestacy laws.
If this scenario is applicable to you at all, then it is important for you to understand how New Hampshire’s intestacy laws work. These types of laws vary greatly from one state to the next.
What Happens If I Own Property In Multiple States?
If you reside in one particular state and own tangible personal property and/or real estate in another state, then the beneficiaries who inherit your estate and property will be decided by the intestacy laws of these two (or more) different states. The final result could involve two sets of beneficiaries. What happens if you own property in three or more states? The intestacy laws of each state will be applied to your estate, and there is a possibility you could have three different sets of heirs.
Who Will Assume Care of My Minor Children and Their Inheritance?
In addition to determining what will happen to your property and who will inherit it, your last will and testament will also dictate who receives guardianship of your minor children and their inheritance. If your spouse (whether current or former) is still living, then they, as the children’s biological parent, will be the first choice in caring for your children and in managing any inheritance they might receive. However, what will happen if your children’s other parent is deceased or otherwise unable to care for them?
If you do not have a will in place, then a New Hampshire judge, whom you have never met and is not familiar with your familial dynamics, will decide who assumes care of your children and any inheritance they receive.
New Hampshire’s Intestacy Laws
In the state of New Hampshire, if you pass away without a last will or testament in place, then your estate and all of your assets will pass to your closest relatives under New Hampshire’s intestate succession laws. For example, if you leave behind children but no spouse, then your children will inherit all of your estate. Likewise, if you leave behind a spouse, but no parents or descendants, then your spouse will inherit your full estate. From this point on, New Hampshire’s intestate laws become more complicated. Who receives what from your estate is dependent upon whether or not you have a living spouse, children, parents, and other close relatives.
As aforementioned, intestacy laws vary widely from one state to the next. For example, in the state of Florida, if you leave behind a spouse and children who have all resulted from the marriage, then your spouse automatically receives 100% of your estate, and your children do not receive anything. If one or more of the children you leave behind are from a different parent, then your current legal spouse will receive half of your estate and each of your children will equally share the remaining half. If you own personal property or real estate outside of New Hampshire, then the intestacy laws of other states can drastically affect how your estate is divided.
Will New Hampshire Get My Property?
If you die without a last will and testament in New Hampshire and do not have any close family, then your estate will be assimilated into New Hampshire’s coffers. However, this scenario rarely occurs, because our state’s laws are designed to ensure that your property is given to any person who is even remotely related to you. For example, the New Hampshire government will not take your estate or property if you leave behind children, a spouse, siblings, grandparents, parents, uncles or aunts, great aunts or uncles, nephews or nieces, cousins, or the siblings, parents, or children of a spouse who passes away before you do.
What Should I Do?
Although New Hampshire’s laws are designed to ensure that your relatives receive your estate upon your demise, the only method you have of ensuring that your estate is divided among the beneficiaries of your choosing, in what time frame they will receive their inheritance, how you want them to receive it, and who will assume guardianship of any minor children is to create a last will and testament.
An experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a last will and testament that will ensure your final wishes are carried out exactly how you’d like. To learn more about estate planning or New Hampshire’s intestate succession laws, please contact our law firm today.
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