Mar 10, 2014 Don’t Have a Will? What Happens Then?

In 2007, a study conducted by Harris Interactive for Martindale-Hubble showed that the majority of Americans do not have a will. Why is this? Some common excuses include cost, not enough time, and the idea you really don’t need one. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, and an attorney himself, didn’t even have a will when he died.

Unfortunately for you, just because Honest Abe didn’t have a will doesn’t mean it’s alright for you not to have one. The fact of the matter is, failing to have a will can have major consequences, which can be both emotionally and financially damaging. Just ask the estate of Jimi Hendrix. For more than 30 years his family battled over who would get the late musician’s estate. Not only did the legal battle divide the family and cause major contention therein, but it also cost his estate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in unnecessary attorney fees and court costs. All of which could have been avoided had he executed a simple will.

So what really happens if you die without a will? Each state has a unique descent and distribution scheme for individuals without a will. In Washington State that scheme can be found in RCW 11.04.015, and is dependent on the categorization of your property. Is your property separate or community in nature? Separate property is defined as property acquired prior to marriage, or during marriage by gift or inheritance. Whereas community property is characterized as property acquired, other than gifts or inheritances, during marriage.

Washington State’s intestacy scheme can be fairly straight forward; however, there are a variety of situations where it becomes very complicated. The following is a graph detailing how your separate property will be divided if you do not have a will:

As you can see, dying with separate property and without a will can be very complicated, and may not be what you want. For instance, if you have a surviving spouse and a minor child from a previous marriage, your separate property will be divided equally between your surviving spouse and minor child. This may create a number of issues, which can include your surviving spouse having inadequate resources to live on, and giving your minor child access to funds that they are not prepared to handle at such a young age. These issues can easily be avoided by having a will in place prior to your death.

Similar issues arise with community property. Below is a graph detailing where you community property goes if you die without a will:

Again, passing away with community property and without a will is complex and generates a plethora of issues. Thankfully, these complexities and concerns can easily be remedied with a will.

Lastly, who is going to manage your estate upon your death? In a will an Executor or Personal Representative is named to manage the decedent’s estate. This is someone you trust and have specifically chosen. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint the Personal Representative on your behalf. This person may or may not be someone you have confidence in. Do you want to take that risk and have the court appointing someone you don’t trust?

Having a will in place prior to your death allows you the freedom to choose how your assets will be divided, regardless of their character (separate or community). Furthermore, it gives you the power to choose who will manage your estate upon your death. Don’t take the risk of dying without a will. See an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. Get your affairs in order and avoid the purple haze of uncertainty., “Majority of Americans Adults Remain Without a Will.” Accessed on January 8, 2014,, “10 Famous People That Died Without a Will.” Accessed on January 8, 2014,, “Jimi Hendrix’s Messy Afterlife.” Accessed on January 8, 2014,

The opinions expressed in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Leonard Rickey Investment Advisors, P.L.L.C, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial. Leonard Rickey Investment Advisors, P.L.L.C., is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, we recommend you see a licensed attorney to answer any legal questions you may have.

Company News

Welcome, Liz Stokes!

Employee Spotlight – Jacqueline Cremen

Shreds and Meds Day – October 28th at The Valley Mall

Employee Spotlight: Chelsie Smith

Employee Spotlight: Dirk Bernd

Market Commentary

2024 1st Quarter Investment Commentary

2023 4th Quarter Investment Commentary

2023 3rd Quarter Investment Commentary

2023 2nd Quarter Investment Commentary

Debt Ceiling: Should Investors Worry?

Retirement Planning

2024 Key Financial Changes

Social Security Benefit Increase of 3.2% for 2024

The 4 Changes from SECURE Act 2.0 You Should Know for 2023

Medicare Open Enrollment for 2023 Begins October 15th

Social Security Benefit Increase of 8.7% for 2023

Tax Planning

2024 Key Financial Changes

2023 1099 Release Information

2023 Year-End Tax Planning

When do I start my Required Minimum Distribution?

UPDATE: Washington State Long Term Care Payroll Tax

Cyber Security

Red Flags When Transferring Money

Cybersecurity 101 – 2022 Update

Cybersecurity 101

New Changes to Web-Portal Password Requirements

Equifax Data Breach Update: Make a claim today

Important Disclosures

Leonard Rickey Investment Advisors, PLLC (“LRIA”), is an SEC registered investment adviser located in the State of Washington. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. For information pertaining to the registration status of LRIA, please contact LRIA or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (

This is provided for general information only and contains information that is not suitable for everyone. As such, nothing herein should be construed as the provision of specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass. This newsletter contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party incorporated herein and take no responsibility therefore.

Any projections, forecasts and estimates, including without limitation any statement using “expect” or “believe” or any variation of either term or a similar term, contained here are forward-looking statements and are based upon certain current assumptions, beliefs and expectations that LRIA considers reasonable or that the applicable third parties have identified as such. Forward-looking statements are necessarily speculative in nature, and it can be expected that some or all of the assumptions or beliefs underlying the forward-looking statements will not materialize or will vary significantly from actual results or outcomes. Some important factors that could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those in any forward-looking statements include, among others, changes in interest rates and general economic conditions in the U.S. and globally, changes in the liquidity available in the market, change and volatility in the value of the U.S. dollar, market volatility and distressed credit markets, and other market, financial or legal uncertainties. Consequently, the inclusion of forward-looking statements herein should not be regarded as a representation by LRIA or any other person or entity of the outcomes or results that will be achieved by following any recommendations contained herein. While the forward-looking statements here reflect estimates, expectations and beliefs, they are not guarantees of future performance or outcomes. LRIA has no obligation to update or otherwise revise any forward-looking statements, including any revisions to reflect changes in economic conditions or other circumstances arising after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of events (whether anticipated or unanticipated), even if the underlying assumptions do not come to fruition. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice and do not necessarily take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or particular needs of all investors.

For additional information about LRIA, including fees and services, please contact us for our Form ADV disclosure brochure using our contact information herein. Please read the disclosure brochure carefully before you invest or send money.