What To Do When Someone Dies Without a Will

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When someone dies, emotions can run high when assets and debts of the deceased must be dealt with. A will can help ease this process, but when the deceased is without a will, survivors of the deceased will have to work with a probate court. Here is an overview of the process and important terms that you will need to know.

Prepare For Probate Court

This is a court dedicated to the state’s legal process that handles the assets of the deceased. If there was a Last Will and Testament (referred to as “testate”), then a person might choose to use probate litigation to challenge a provision of the will. But, if there wasn’t a will (referred to as “intestate” or “dying intestate”), then this process will be different. Each state is different with how they handle the process, so you will want to refer to your state’s intestate succession laws (aka intestacy laws). Some states offer probate exemptions to smaller estates. Other states might eliminate or simplify the probate process depending on particular factors, such as property left to the widow or widower.

Beginning the probate process as soon as possible is a good idea because it can shorten the time-window for claims to be filed by creditors of the deceased. You will need to file a petition in the county where the deceased resided. Simply go to the courthouse and make the request. You will need to have their death certificate to begin the process and have the names and addresses of all surviving relatives.


How To Prepare

1. Understand Who Gets What If There Is No Will

If the deceased did not make a will, the probate process will determine who gets the legal title of the property. State laws are different when it comes to who gets what. Usually, the assets are distributed by classes of heirs. This means that first things are given to close family and relatives, then maybe distant relatives, but not to friends or charities. If no relatives are found, then the estate will be given to the state.

2. Determine Who Can Serve As The Administrator

A personal representative (commonly called an “administrator” or “administratrix”) will have to be appointed. This is an honorable position, but it comes with great responsibility. They will:

  • Be required to handle legal claims regarding the estate, debts, taxes, and other expenses
  • Determine the value of the estate
  • Gather probate assets
  • Handle legal disputes and claims regarding the estate

3. Identify Heirs

This must be done before assets are distributed. Also, understand that these assets can only be distributed once debts and expenses are settled.


Benefits of Legal Support in Probate

By hiring a probate lawyer, you can rest assured that every step of the process is being conducted in the best way to relieve survivors of burdens regarding debts and common disputes regarding the distribution of assets. Also, depending on the estate, the process can get quite complicated very quickly. By choosing to hire a probate lawyer from the beginning, you can help this difficult process to go smoothly, and with legal guidance that will help protect you along the way. Find a qualified probate lawyer near you now.