If you are like many other Americans, you haven't yet set up your estate plan. Perhaps you are young, healthy or busy. These reasons, along with others, may sound reasonable at the time, but the fact of the matter is that none of us know when our time is up.
Without proper estate planning, including the execution of a last will and testament, what happens to your property after death will be up to the state of Alaska. Below is a brief overview of what happens to your property if your spouse survives you.
What does your spouse get without a will?
If you are married at the time of your death, the court will distribute your property as follows:
- If your parents are deceased and you have no descendants that you share with your spouse, he or she receives your entire estate.
- If all of your descendants are also the descendants of your spouse, and your spouse has no other descendants, he or she receives your entire estate.
- If all of your descendants are also the descendants of your spouse, and your spouse has other descendants, he or she receives $150,000, plus half of the remaining estate. Your descendants receive the other remaining half.
- If you have descendants that you don't share with your spouse, then he or she receives $100,000, plus half of the remaining estate. Your descendants receive the other remaining half.
- If your parents survive you, your spouse receives $200,000, plus 75 percent of the remaining portion. Your parents will each receive one-eighth of the remaining portion.
- If only one of your parents survives you, your spouse receives $200,000, plus 75 percent of the remaining portion. Your parent will receive the remaining 25 percent of the remaining portion.
This may not seem bad, but what happens if you want to leave something to someone else? What about your siblings? What about charity? The law takes none of these into consideration.
Will your spouse choose to take the elective share?
In addition, your spouse may legally take more than the shares outlined above. If he or she decides to take the elective share, he or she receives a minimum of one-third of your estate, plus the family allowance, the exempt property and the homestead exemption. In certain situations, your spouse may also receive an additional $50,000. Computing the elective share can be complex.
Draft and execute a will
If you want to retain control of where your estate goes, you need a will. You could leave everything to your spouse regardless of any other potential heirs. In the alternative, you could leave part of your estate to your spouse and distribute the remainder as you see fit. In fact, numerous ways exist in which you can leave your assets upon your death.
You may need more information to create an estate plan that works best for you, your spouse and the rest of your family. Fortunately, help is available to ensure that the court carries out your wishes after you pass away.