Skip to main content

Find the estate planning form that’s right for you.

Close

Okay, let’s get started!

Do you want to talk to a lawyer about your estate planning needs?

You may have a unique situation or have specific questions about what is right for you and your family. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
Close

Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

Great! Let’s keep going.

Do you have children from a previous relationship or a child with special needs?

There are special considerations to make if you have a blended family or a child with special needs. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
Close

Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

Good to know! You’re doing great.

Do you have a large estate or an interest in more advanced estate planning tools like trusts?

If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
Close

Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

Okay! You’re good at this.

Are you looking to have your estate planning basics covered?

Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Got it! How about this next one?

Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
Close

Sounds good! Let’s continue.

Do you have pets?

If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
Close

Understood! You’re doing great.

Do you want to leave gifts to people or a charity?

If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
Close

Okay! We’re making great progress.

Do you own a business?

If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
Close

Noted! Just a few more questions.

Do you want to decide how your property is distributed when you pass away?

Close

Sounds good! We’re almost done.

Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
Close

Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Sounds good! We’re almost done.

Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
Close

Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

Close

Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

Close

Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

Understanding Intestacy: If You Die Without an Estate Plan

When a person dies without having a valid will in place, his or her property passes by what is called “intestate succession” to heirs according to state law. In other words, if you don’t have a will, the state will make one for you. All fifty states have laws (or “statutes”) of this kind on the books.

Table of Contents

The purpose of intestate succession statutes is to distribute the decedent’s wealth in a manner that closely represents how the average person would have designed his or her estate plan, had that person had a will. However, this default can differ dramatically from what the person really would have wanted. Even where it is known what the person intended, no exceptions are made where no valid will exists. Nor are there any exceptions made based on need or special circumstances.

The Uniform Probate Code

The Uniform Probate Code (the Code) serves as the starting point for many states’ laws. Nevertheless, the laws of different states can vary greatly from each other and from the Code itself. However, the Code represents the best reference for a general discussion.

Under the Code, close relatives take property instead of distant relatives. The classes of relatives whose members receive property under the Code include the decedent’s surviving spouse, descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), parents, descendants of decedent’s parents (siblings, nieces and nephews), grandparents, and descendants of grandparents (aunts and uncles and cousins). Adopted descendants are treated the same as biological descendants. If none of the above-named classes of relatives include any persons qualified to take the estate, the property “escheats” (goes by default) to the state.

Share Of Surviving Spouse

Under the Code, a surviving spouse is either entitled to the entire estate (after expenses and taxes of the decedent) or a substantial part of it. For example:

  • The surviving spouse is entitled to the entire net estate if the decedent is also survived by children who are all children of the decedent and the surviving spouse.
  • The surviving spouse is also entitled to the entire net estate if the decedent is not survived by descendants and parents.
  • If parents survive but no descendants survive, a surviving spouse takes the first $200,000 of the net estate plus three-fourths of anything exceeding that amount.
  • If the decedent is survived by descendants who are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, and by descendants who are not descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse takes the first $150,000 of the net estate plus one-half of anything exceeding that amount.
  • If the decedent is not survived by any descendants who are also descendant of the surviving spouse but is survived by descendants who are not descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse takes the first $100,000 of the net estate plus one-half of anything exceeding that amount.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Share of Descendants

Under the Code, if no spouse survives but descendants of the decedent survive, the descendants take the entire net estate by “right of representation.”

Share of Parents

Under the Code, if a decedent is not survived by a spouse or descendants, the entire net estate passes to the decedent’s parents equally or, if only one survives, to the survivor.

Share of Other Relatives

Under the Code, if a decedent is not survived by a spouse, descendants, or parents, the entire net estate passes to the decedent’s parent’s descendants (siblings of the decedent). If there are no siblings or descendants of siblings, the net estate goes to the decedent’s grandparents or their descendants.

Net Estate

The “Net Estate” is the amount left for distribution to heirs after all debts, family protections, taxes, and administrative expenses have been paid. “Family protections” include homestead allowances, family allowances, and exempt property allowances.

Talk to an Attorney to Get a Better Understanding of Intestacy

Feeling overwhelmed by the probate code? Afraid of the consequences of you or a loved one dying without a will? Concerned that an unpopular relative might get an unfair share of the assets? These are all valid concerns and ones that can be addressed by a legal professional. Get peace of mind by contacting an estate planning attorney to help you with your estate planning. You can also get started on your own using our state-specific last will and testament forms.

Written by:

FindLaw Staff

Contributing Author

Ally_Marshall_image

Reviewed by:

Ally Marshall, Esq.

Managing Editor