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What happens to my loved ones if I don’t have a will?

A will is one of the best ways for you to care for your loved ones after your death. If you have not made a will yet, Pennsylvania law determines where your assets go. Certain family members—such as your spouse—will automatically receive a portion of your estate whether you have a plan or not.

But certain family members, specifically children, might not get anything if you don’t have a will. How your children are related to you can affect whether the law allows them a share of your property.

Children you placed for adoption

If another family adopts your child, a share of your estate will not automatically go to the child. It doesn’t matter if you have an open adoption that lets you know and visit your child—the adoption terminated the legal bond created at birth. You would have to specify in your will that you are leaving a share to your child if you want them to receive anything.


If you have living children, they will receive an even share of your estate. Your children’s children are not guaranteed to receive any inheritance from you. One way your grandchildren would automatically get a share is if your child dies—leaving them without a parental connection to you.

If your children are still alive, you would have to make a will that assigns a share to your grandchildren specifically.

Foster and stepchildren

You may have cared for a child throughout their entire life—whether through foster care or a remarriage. If you never legally adopt a foster or stepchild, however, your estate will not benefit them. You need to make your children legally a part of your family before they qualify for an automatic share.

A will can give financial security and show your love to your family after you are gone. If you don’t have one, your estate might leave out children who aren’t directly related.

Consider creating a will to protect your loved ones. An attorney can help you create an estate plan that can help all of your loved ones get the inheritance they deserve after you pass away.

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