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Not having a will to determine what happens to your property upon your death is foolish. Not having a will to determine what happens to your children upon your death is unconscionable.

If you die without a will, state law will determine what happens to your property. As such, your property will be distributed to your spouse and children or to other relatives according to a statutory formula if you don't have a spouse or children. If no relatives can be found to inherit your property, it will go into your state's coffers.

A court will determine who will care for children under the age of 18 if a parent of the child is not living or is not considered to be acceptable by the state. The court will then appoint a personal guardian over your minor children. The court-appointed guardian may or may not be a person you would have approved.

When a person dies without a will (or even if they die with a will as opposed to a living trust) the estate must be probated. Probate is the court process whereby property is transferred to court-determined heirs. Public notices are given to potential creditors and inventories, petitions and accountings are filed with the Probate Court. Altogether, the process may lock up the estate assets for a period of 8-12 months.

If there is property that passes to a minor child the court will appoint a financial guardian over the child's property. The guardian must give an inventory and accounting to the court each year, adding time and expense to the process. There may also be unnecessary estate taxes because you failed to have a will.

The bottom line is that a will is easy to do and does not have to cost a lot of money, so there is really no excuse for not having one!