What happens if I pass away without a will?
A will allows you to determine how your assets will be distributed and to appoint an individual to handle your affairs after your passing. If you do not have a valid will in place at the time of your passing, state law will determine how your assets will be distributed, which may not reflect your true wishes. Also, the court will appoint an administrator, whose fee will be charged against the estate.
If my spouse survives me, wouldn’t he/she inherit all my assets in any event?
Not necessarily. State laws limit the percentage of your estate that your spouse would inherit; the remainder may go to your children or other heirs.
What happens if my spouse predeceases me and I have children?
If your spouse is deceased at the time of your passing and neither of you had a will in place, your children will inherit your estate in equal shares.
Who will inherit my assets if I am childless and do not have a spouse?
Who inherits your assets will vary widely from state to state. Your assets may be distributed to more distant relatives. However, if no relatives survive you, or the ones who can be located are too distant a relation under state law, your assets will pass to the state.
How often should my will be updated?
You should review your will periodically, especially when there are changes in family or financial situation such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of an heir, acquisition of property, or a substantial change in the value of an asset. Also, it is important to review your will when there are changes in the law.
Once I have reviewed my will and determined that it needs to be updated, how do I go about it?
DO NOT make any marks or notations of any kind on your will (either original or copy). A will is a legal document that can be invalidated by such markings. Have your attorney draft a new will or draw up a codicil (supplement) to your existing will.
Where should I keep my will?
It is important to keep your will in a safe place. It is also important that the person whom you have named as executor of your estate knows the location of the original will. Failure to produce the original may revoke the will.
For more information, you can e-mail Lorri Greif, CFRE, Planned Giving Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 212-294-8301, ext. 6108 . You can also write to her at our mailing address:
Lorri Greif, CFRE, Planned Giving Officer
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011-6301