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One common misconception about passing away is that the state you live in will get your belongings and property (your “estate”) if you die without a Will. This is not true. Each state has statutes governing what happens to a person’s estate if he or she dies without a Will. Typically, these statutes provide that your “next of kin” will inherit from you if you have no Will. The order of inheritance of your next of kin is also defined by state law. Most people’s estates would only be transferred to a state if several layers of your family members predeceased you. This is a fairly rare occurrence.
Even though it is unlikely the state you live in would ever receive your estate, you should create a Will. Without a Will, you have no say in who gets, or does not get, your estate. If you have children under the age of 19, you are not able to name a guardian for them without a Will and you cannot assign someone to be financially responsible for them. People without Wills give up all control over the distribution of their assets, and their estate is simply distributed per state law’s mandate.
If you die without a Will in Nebraska, the first family member considered is the surviving spouse. If there is a spouse, there are a few layers of other family members (children and parents of the deceased) to consider in determining how much of the estate goes to the spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, there are several layers of family members to consider, and if the layer is satisfied, it stops, and that family member or members get the estate.
Generally, this is how Nebraska defines the family layers (or tiers) of inheritance for a person dying without a Will:
It is ONLY after all of the above is worked through, and no family members are still surviving, that Nebraska would get your estate.
While it is good news that it is unlikely that the state will get an estate of a person who dies without a Will, it is ALWAYS a good idea to have one. For assistance with estate planning and drafting a Will, contact Berkshire & Burmeister’s estate planning attorneys.