When someone dies without a will their estate - all their assets and belongings - is distributed according to the laws governing intestacy. The problem is that the distribution may not fulfil your wishes.
Intestacy refers to the body of common law that determines who is entitled to the property of a dead person in the absence of a last will and testament or other binding declaration.
Wills and Children
There are several issues that your child might be confronted with if you pass suddenly and without a will, especially if you still have minor children. You want to make sure that the child is cared for properly by someone you trust and that the child gets your assets once he or she reaches a certain age.
First of all, you and your spouse (or the child's other parent) should both make out a will naming the same person to take over as the personal guardian should both of you die. In that case, if a personal guardian is needed to care for your children, then a judge will nominated the personal guardian you have named, unless the court deems that person unfit. This personal guardian will then be responsible for raising the child until the child becomes a legal adult.
If only one parent dies, the other parent will inherit full custody of the child, unless, of course, that parent has abandoned the child or is otherwise deemed unfit as a parent.
If your child is not yet 18, and you have assets, the child will not be able to manage those assets until he or she is 18. In that case, you must appoint someone to manage your property if you would like to avoid having someone appointed to do so by the court. You can choose a custodian to manage those affairs under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). The UTMA will end once your child has reached the age of majority.
What Happens If You Die Without A Will?
If you die without a Will, what you own in your name alone (your "assets") will be divided among your spouse, children, or other relatives according state law. The way the statute distributes you assets is the way it will happen, regardless of your wishes, unless you had a valid Will at the time of your death. If you are survived by a spouse but no children or other descendants, the surviving spouse gets everything; if you are survived by a spouse and one child, each would get half; if a spouse and two children survive, each would get one-third; if a spouse and more than two children survive, the spouse would get one-third and the children would divide the other two-thirds share equally; if a child dies before you but leaves his or her own children, those grandchildren (or great-grandchildren) take that child's share of your estate. If you are unmarried, without children, and your parents survive you, your estate passes to them. If your parents are not living, then to your siblings (and their heirs), and then to other more distant relatives; eventually, if no family member is found, the estate passes to the State. The court will appoint an administrator (generally a relative) for your estate to collect and distribute your assets, and will name a guardian for any minor children without considering what you would have wanted