If you die intestate (without a will), your state’s laws of descent and distribution will determine who receives your property by default. These laws vary from state to state, but typically the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or if none, to other family members. A state’s plan often reflects the legislature’s guess as to how most people would dispose of their estates and builds in protections for certain beneficiaries, particularly minor children. That plan may or may not reflect your actual wishes. A will allows you to alter the state’s default plan to suit your personal preferences. It also permits you to exercise control over a myriad of personal decisions that broad and general state default provisions cannot address.
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