Dying Without a Will

An interview with Prof. John Morley

When you die without a will, the default rules of inheritance law kick in, allocating assets based on established formulas and hierarchies. In this conversation, Prof. John Morley (Yale Law School) explains basic inheritance law and delves into the default rules that come into play when a person dies without a will (“intestate”) and how these rules both vary significantly from state to state and are often at odds with common expectations when it comes to an individual’s legacy. 

Through his recent survey, Prof. Morley has uncovered differences in inheritance expectations across various demographic groups. For instance, women are notably less likely than men to intentionally leave money to their spouses. Additionally, the conversation explores discrepancies by race and sexual orientation as well as some notable surprises pertaining to less traditional family structures.

Prof. Morley's insights not only underscore the importance of having a will that accurately reflects one's wishes but also suggest that intestacy laws across the nation may be out of step with modern expectations and in need of revision.

  • Attorney CLE accreditation