Dear Helaine: I'm a single woman in my 50s with no children, significant other or close relatives. I've never had life insurance, but I do own a condo and car.
I don't want a funeral, just a cremation and to have my ashes scattered. I've never bothered with a will because, frankly, I don't care what happens to my stuff after I die. What happens to my estate if I don't make a will? If I got hit by a bus today, there would be money left over after paying bills. -- Ashes to Ashes
Dear Ashes to Ashes: The word for dying without a will is "intestate." And while the "state" in that word does not refer to the United States, it does, coincidentally, offer a hint of what will happen to your assets after your death if you do not sign a valid will: How the proceeds of your estate will be distributed is determined by the laws of the state you live in.
In most cases, this means the money will be divided among your siblings, or, if they are no longer alive, their children. (I'm assuming, based on this note, your parents are deceased.) If you did not have any brothers or sisters, the sum would get divided among relatives on your mother's and father's sides of the family, either your aunts and uncles or, more likely, your first cousins. If those relatives don't exist, the state will keep the money.
In other words, the chances are good that relatives you either don't know well (if at all) or don't care for will inherit your assets. Lucky them! Is this what you really want to happen? I'm guessing the answer is no.
I bet you have friends, men and women in your life, whom you love and who love you back, people who will likely step in to help you in the unlikely event you become seriously ill in middle age. I'm also guessing there are causes in life you feel passionately about, either political or charitable. If you make a will, you can ensure these people and organizations receive your money. Most of us would find the latter outcome more satisfying.
It's also important to have a health care proxy in place, a document that names a trusted friend or relative to act in your stead to make sure your medical care wishes are carried out should you become incapacitated. You can do this in conjunction with a will.
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