Why can not having a will or delaying making a will be so risky? Well, it could result in a person dying without having any legally binding instructions for what will happen with the bulk of their estate after they die. This in turn, could have many consequences a person might strongly desire to avoid.
One is not having any say in where their property goes when they die. Without a will or other legally binding estate planning mechanism giving instructions regarding what will happen with a particular asset, the disposition of the asset will be governed by state law, rather than the deceased's intentions.
Not having a will could also up the complexity of estate-related proceedings, which could be tough on a person's family.
For one, determining how estate assets will be divided when no will (or other legally binding instruction from the deceased) exists can be a complicated process. It is also a process that could lead to disputes between the deceased's family members.
Disputes within a deceased's family over a contested inheritance can sometimes go for a long time. Thus, not having a will could end up having impacts on a person's family long after the person's death.
An example of how long and how high up disputes over inheritances can go can be seen from an inheritance dispute from here in Michigan.
The dispute regards a certain asset of the estate of a man who died back in 2012. He was killed in a car accident. He died without a will.
The asset in question is a $300,000 wrongful-death settlement.
A dispute arose between the man's sisters and his stepsons over what should happen with these settlement funds. The dispute continues to today.
A judge and an appeals court ruled that the money should go to the sisters. However, the stepsons contest this and have asked the Michigan Supreme Court to look at the case. The state's supreme court has agreed to hear arguments related to the case. One wonders what actions the court will decide to take following hearing these arguments and how long the case ultimately will end up going.
Source: Detroit Free Press, "Michigan Supreme Court wants to hear more about inheritance dispute," March 24, 2016