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Understanding Virginia Intestacy Laws

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy or the elderly. It’s for anyone who wants to have a say in how their assets will be distributed after they pass away. If you die without a will in Virginia, you leave the division of your assets up to the Commonwealth’s intestacy laws, which might not align with your wishes. In this blog post, we’ll break down what intestacy laws are, who gets what, and why you should consider estate planning to avoid intestacy.

The Basics of Intestacy Laws in Central Virginia

Intestacy laws come into play when someone passes away without a will. The government has created a default plan for how to divide up your assets and how to choose the person in charge of administering your estate. 

While the intestacy laws aim to distribute your estate fairly, they do not take into account your preferences, family dynamics, or promises you may have made. Loved ones often feel neglected or betrayed when they learn that there is no will left to memorialize bequests for their provision and protection. 

In Virginia, if you die without a will, your assets will likely go to your closest relatives: your spouse, children, or possibly more distant relatives if the immediate family is not available. But remember, without a will, you have no control over this process.

How Does the Commonwealth of Virginia Divide Assets?

First on the priority list is the surviving spouse. If there are no children or other descendants such as grandchildren, the spouse gets everything. 

However, if there are children, the distribution can become a little more complicated. In Virginia, if a deceased person leaves children or other descendants from another relationship, the current spouse only receives one-third of the estate, and the remaining two-thirds will be divided among the children. This default division may not necessarily reflect what you would want. For instance, you might prefer to leave a greater share to a child with special needs or other unique circumstances.

What Happens When There’s No Immediate Family?

If you don’t have a spouse or children, the assets will go to your closest living relatives, such as your parents, siblings, or more distant relatives in a specific order defined by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s laws. But what if you wanted some of your estate to go to a partner, friend, charity, or stepchild? Under intestacy laws, these individuals and organizations would receive nothing. If you live with a partner but are not married, the household goods and other property you share may be divided among your family members instead of belonging entirely to your partner.

That’s why it’s crucial to take charge of your own estate planning, so your wishes are honored, and the people you love are taken care of.

What You Can Do to Avoid Intestacy in Virginia

Estate planning secures peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Creating a will or a trust gives you control over how your assets will be divided. You can designate specific items to go to certain individuals, name a guardian for minor children, and even provide for the care of a pet. Another benefit of creating a will is naming an executor who you trust to carry out your wishes, rather than leaving that decision to the court.

The Risks of DIY Estate Planning

While there are many do-it-yourself tools available online, there’s no substitute for professional advice. Estate planning involves complex laws and individual circumstances that a generic online form cannot capture. Plus, errors or ambiguities in your will can lead to disputes among family members or even result in your will being invalidated, putting you right back under the intestacy laws you were trying to avoid.

Reach Out for Professional Estate Planning Advice in Central Virginia

Taking the time to create a comprehensive estate plan is a gift to your loved ones and to yourself. It ensures that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, rather than leaving it to the legislators to decide. At Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel, we are here to help you plan for the future.

Call Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel in Central Virginia at (434) 589-2958 or in Powhatan at (804) 598-1348 or reach out online to set up a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.