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What can happen if you die with no will and no family?

Would you want local government employees deciding what happens to your belongings and even your body after you die? Virtually no one would. However, that can happen when people die without any type of estate plan in place and no relatives to be found.

Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, both have Public Administrators' offices that handle affairs for people who die without a will or known heirs or when a named executor "fails to act." A decedent's heir can also ask the Public Administrator to handle the administration of an estate.

When a person dies with no locatable will or heirs, the Public Administrator's office will try to find relatives and disburse any assets or belongings they've left. One might assume that in these cases, there are few if any assets. However, deputies in the San Francisco's Public Administrator's office once found $87,000 in cash in someone's belongings. They discovered that another decedent owned three buildings.

Many people who are estranged from family members and don't have a lot of money don't bother with an estate plan. However, an estate plan can include documents like an advanced medical directive that can provide guidance to medical professionals if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.

Maybe you don't have any family members to whom you want to leave anything. However, if you know of a worthy organization that might be able to use your savings or any of your property, wouldn't you rather they have it than some half-sibling across the country whom you barely know? That's who may get it if the Public Administrator's deputies get involved.

Whether you have a small nest egg or you've amassed a fortune and whether you have no family or a large, extended clan, estate planning is about ensuring that your wishes are carried out when you're not in a position to speak for yourself or after you're gone. An experienced California estate planning attorney can help you put a plan in place that's appropriate for your individual needs.

Source: ABC 7 San Francisco, "No Will? There's a Way: City Deals With Those Who Die Unprepared," accessed May 09, 2018

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