Estate Planning attorneys often have to spend a lot of time dispelling the misconceptions of their clients. People often believe things about the law that are simply not true. I’m sure that attorneys in different fields have to do this too. There is one myth that many people believe that I would like to put to rest today. Many people believe that if you pass away without a Will that all of your property will be claimed by the government.
It is easy to see where this myth comes from. In the United Kingdom your estate does go to the government if you pass away without a Will. However, an interesting exception is that if you pass away in Cornwall without a Will, your estate goes to the Prince of Wales. Because the United States inherited many of its laws and its legal system from England, it used to be the case that what happened in the UK was a reliable guide to the law in the US. That is no longer the case. In the United States, the government does not get your estate if you pass away without a Will. Your closest relatives will get it as determined by a statutory scheme.