Adults in Rhode Island typically have responsibilities to numerous other parties. They may need to provide financial support for their immediate family members while simultaneously fulfilling obligations to businesses, such as their mortgage lender or landlord. Many people help to ensure that their obligations will be met even after their death by creating an estate plan, or at least a will. They set aside resources for their personal obligations and earmark specific property for certain family members or other beneficiaries.
However, there are many adults in Rhode Island that have not yet taken this important step for their protection and the protection of their closest family members. What happens in a scenario where someone dies and does not have valid estate planning documents on record in The Ocean State?
State law guides the descent of property without a will
When someone dies without a will, then Rhode Island state law determines what happens with that individual’s property. Any assets owned solely by the deceased party become the property of their estate, and their immediate family members will be the ones with the right to access and utilize those assets. Spouses and children have primary inheritance rights under Rhode Island intestate succession laws. There are even rules that allow a spouse a life estate in any real property owned solely by the deceased to protect their living arrangements while preserving its long-term ownership for the children in the family.
In scenarios where someone dies without a spouse or children, then other, more distant family members can inherit from their estate. In the relatively rare scenario that involves someone with no family that the state can locate, the assets in someone’s estate may eventually become the possession of Rhode Island. Most people dislike the idea that lawmakers and judges will ultimately decide who receives what property from their estates. Especially for those who have complicated family relationships or close bonds with those who don’t have a legal or biological relationship to them, allowing intestate succession laws to determine what happens to their property may not be the best solution.
Creating a will in Rhode Island will ultimately give an individual more control over what happens to their property and more peace of mind than they would be afforded if they simply did nothing to safeguard their wishes and their legacy.