Creating a last will or a comprehensive estate plan may not be a thrilling way to spend an afternoon, but it is an important step to take that too many people avoid. If you have a spouse, children or substantial assets, creating a last will is of the utmost importance.

If you fail to do so, the state of Montana will get to decide on your behalf who gets what out of your estate. Typically, that means the person with the closest relationship to you will get everything, which could mean that someone you don’t particularly like will benefit from your death, while someone you love dearly may not inherit anything at all.

How does intestate succession work?

When someone dies without a will, it is said that they died intestate. Any assets that you owned privately as an individual will have to go through probate court. The courts will then look at what you own, how you owned it and your family relationships to determine who gets what.

If you have a spouse but no children or parents, your spouse inherits everything, as they would if all of your children are biologically theirs as well. If you have children from a previous relationship and a spouse, the state will split the assets between them. The same is true if you have surviving parents.

The more complicated your family and personal relationships are and the more valuable your assets are, the more important it is for you to create an estate plan that names specific areas and beneficiaries for the possessions you leave behind when you die.