Many adults have not yet created an estate plan or even a basic will. Often, these adults claim they have reasons for putting off planning for their own deaths. One of the most common is an assumption that their property will pass to others when they die whether they create documents or not.
For example, some people believe that when they die, their spouse will automatically inherit all of their property. They may think they don’t need to have an estate plan because they are married. Is it true that a surviving spouse receives everything when one spouse dies without a will?
State law allocates some property to the spouse
Your spouse absolutely has inheritance rights, but they will not necessarily receive everything from your estate if you die without a valid will. Rhode Island gives spouses the right to a portion of someone’s personal property and real property.
Whether the couple has kids or not will play a role in how much the spouse receives. If there are no children, the surviving spouse receives the first $50,000 of personal property from the estate, as well as half of the remainder. If there are children, the surviving spouse will simply receive half of the personal property.
The spouse will also have the right to use real estate owned by the deceased party for the rest of their life. If the spouse does not have an ownership interest in the property and the estate’s executor or a beneficiary intends to sell the property, the spouse will receive as much as $150,000 of the property’s value.
Unlike some other states, Rhode Island does not allow a spouse total inheritance unless there is a will or estate plan in place.
Why estate documents are still necessary for married people
If you want your spouse to inherit everything from your estate, then you will need to have a will declaring those wishes clearly.
You also need to consider what might happen if you and your spouse died at the same time, such as in the event of a tragic car crash. Without a will, there may be confusion about what to do with your property if you don’t have children. If you do have children, dying when you don’t have a will could mean there is no guardian named to provide their care.
Learning more about probate laws can help you create an estate plan that achieves your legacy goals.