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Q&A: What happens to a home if you have no will?

Q: What would happen to our property if my husband and I should die without a will?

A. If you do not have a Last Will and Testament at the time of your death, the applicable state law will decide how your assets should be distributed and won’t account for items with sentimental value, says attorney Chandra Ortiz, assistant dean of the Nassau Academy of Law at the Nassau County Bar Association. This may -- or, as in many unfortunate cases -- may not be in accordance with your wishes. For instance, those who you may have come to love as family (for example, children not legally adopted), will not be considered in the distribution of your assets. The battles for property, for example, will cost far more than it would have cost to have a will drawn up, says Ortiz.

If you do get a will and then want to make changes, that’s not a problem. A codicil, or an amendment to a will, can accommodate a new child, family member (son in-law, for instance), or reflect a changed relationship -- for the better or worse. It will not revoke the will, but only be in addition to it.

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