One of the first things that you learn in law school is that the fundamentals of United States law were inherited from England. Many of the laws that we have today in the United States are still very similar to the laws in the United Kingdom. The Revolution did not change everything. This is very true in estate planning. The basic ideas of estate planning laws were fixed before the Revolutionary War.
However, there is an extremely important difference between UK and US law. The two countries could not be more different over the issue of what happens to a person’s estate if they pass away without a Will. In the UK, if someone passes away without a Will, his or her estate goes to the government unless the person passed away in Cornwall. If the person died in Cornwall, the estate goes to the Prince of Wales. Yes, Prince Charles gets it.
Many Americans still believe that the United States has the same law as the UK and that if someone passes away without a Will, the government gets everything. That’s not true. The estate will be distributed to the deceased’s closest living relatives.