Pay off high-rate debt with a personal loan and save thousands. Learn more.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

By Anna Davies · June 13, 2023 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Did you know that if you die without a will, the court gets to decide how your possessions and your money are distributed? That means that any plans you had about giving items or cash to friends, charities, or other recipients won’t likely be followed. What’s more, your survivors may have a tricky road ahead as they navigate the management of your estate.

Unfortunately, the situation of dying without a will is something that can happen more often than you might think. Many people plan to write a will but just never quite get around to it. Even though the process doesn’t have to be pricey or time-consuming, there are plenty of people who avoid the task or other estate planning duties.

Here, you’ll find out what happens if you haven’t made a will. You’ll also learn how writing a will can save your loved ones stress, time, and, yes, money.

Who Handles Your Estate if You Die Without a Will?

When there is no will to name an executor, state law dictates who will be in charge of handling your estate.

A will is where you designate an executor or personal representative. This is the person who takes responsibility for your estate after you die. They make sure final bills and taxes are paid and your assets are distributed properly.

This is often based on a priority list. For example, most states will make the surviving spouse, if there is one, the executor. Adult children are typically considered next, followed by other family members.

Until the courts decide who will distribute your assets, they will be frozen. That means no one can touch your stuff, even if you had told them they could have it.

If nobody is willing or able to handle your estate, the courts will name a public trustee to represent you. This would mean that a stranger would be in charge of distributing your assets according to the laws in your state.

Recommended: Guide to Safety Deposit Boxes

Who Gets Your Money If You Die Without a Will?

If you were to die without a will (legally called “intestate”), the state would decide how to divide your assets.

This process is called probate. Depending on your financial situation when you die, this can be a complex process that can hold your assets in place and be potentially time-consuming and expensive for your survivors.

How an estate will be distributed will depend on state law. Typically, however, the bulk of the estate will go to a spouse. If you have children, they will also likely get a share or, if there are no children, your parents. Next, the state will typically look for siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Some relatives might have to claim unclaimed money from the deceased (aka, you).

The probate process can mean that your belongings are inherited by those you didn’t necessarily intend. For example, if you are single and you die, your parents may get all of your possessions. This may not have been your wishes if you have a partner, or if you and your parents don’t get along.

If you are in a relationship but have no marriage certificate, your significant other may not be able to inherit any of your assets.

You also don’t have an opportunity to give anything to charity, your alma mater, or create a legacy.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


What if I Die With Credit Card Debt or Loans?

Your estate typically has to pay any creditors before anything is passed down to those named in your will or determined by the court. If you have a mortgage or credit card debt alongside other assets, the process can take time and can lead to confusion and frustration for your loved ones.

If you die, federal student loan debt will be discharged, but private loan debt is dependent on your policy. If someone cosigned the loan, they may be responsible for future payments.

If you have credit card debts and not enough assets to cover them, your survivors are not responsible for payment, according to the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB).

But despite your loved ones not being legally obligated to pay the debts, it may also lead to creditors contacting your family.

Recommended: What Happens if Direct Deposit Goes to a Closed Account?

Who Gets My Children if I Die Without a Will?

Guardianship, or who takes care of children who are minors in the event of your death, can be the most pressing concern for many parents.

If you die without a will, the state will appoint a guardian for your children. The state will choose guardians that they believe are in the best interest of the children, but these guardians may not be the same people you would have chosen.

Having the state assign guardians can also be stressful for your loved ones during what would already likely be a tough time.

A will can establish both a personal and financial guardian for your children. While this can be the same person, some parents like the flexibility in dividing guardianship.

For example, a relative may be chosen to be a financial guardian because they are skilled at managing money and have positive net worth. However, a personal guardian could be a family member who lives nearby and could ensure that the children are well cared for and their daily routines stay consistent.

You can also appoint a backup guardian in your will in case your primary choice is unable or unwilling to take on the role. You might also look into putting your house in a trust for your children, which could help ease the transfer process.

Writing a Will Can be Easier (and Cheaper) Than You May Think

If you have a lot of property or assets and may want to set up trusts for your heirs, it can be wise to hire an experienced estate attorney to help you write a will, as well as any other estate planning documents. They can also advise you on the best way to handle a will if you are married.

For many people, however, online templates can be sufficient and, provided the documents are signed appropriately, will be legally binding. A will is an important part of an estate-planning checklist.

After you write your will, you may need witnesses and a notary in order to make sure it’s legal in the state where you live. Once you have a will, there are a few other steps you may want to take, including:

•   Keeping your will in a safe place. This may include having a digital copy and also a physical copy.

•   Letting someone know where copies of the will are kept (say, the person you appointed as executor of your will).

•   Creating other end-of-life documents, including a living will and power of attorney. These documents can be invaluable if you were to become incapacitated and needed people to make medical decisions for you.

•   Talking about your decision with others. Many people put off creating a will, which can lead to confusion and uncertainty if the worst were to happen. Encouraging your loved ones to draft their own wills can help give peace of mind to the entire family.

•   Updating it regularly. It can be a good idea to consider looking at your will every year or so, or after a major event, such as a marriage, divorce, death in the family, home purchase, or the birth of a child.

The Takeaway

Creating a will may seem overwhelming, but it can also be a financially prudent move that helps protect your assets — and creates a legacy based on your wishes.

If you die without a will, you will have no say in how your assets will be distributed and, if you have children, who will care for them. You also risk putting your survivors in a difficult situation.

You may be able to create your own will relatively quickly online simply by plugging in your information. The rest is done for you, and the results are legally binding.

While you’re tackling the to-dos you’ve long been putting off, you may also want to also work on getting your financial life in order. SoFi Checking and Savings makes it easy to manage your money by allowing you to save and spend, all in one account, while earning a competitive annual percentage yield (APY).

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.



SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

SOBK0523061U

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender