Probate Law: Dying Without A Will

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If you die with or without a will, all properties are still subject to probate. While different states have different probate processes for testate and intestate succession, the process is more or less similar when it comes to people who die without wills. Read on to know how probate law deals with deaths without a will.

How the Probate Works in Intestate Succession

If you die without a will, all your property left after your death will be transferred to your heirs through intestate succession. This usually starts with the probate courts appointing a representative to manage all aspects of transferring your property, including covering the expenses incurred by the state and paying off your debts. In most cases, the court-appointed representative, called an administrator or administratrix, must pay off all the expenses of the estate before he can proceed with the probate process.

In most cases, the court appoints the relative or family member closest to the decedent as the representative or administrator. In many cases, this could be the spouse or a parent. If these individuals decline, the court may appoint the relative next in line to fill the position and take on the duties as representative or administrator.

The surviving spouse or any other suitable family member can also apply to be appointed as a representative of the deceased estate. He or she can bring a copy of the death certificate to the appropriate probate court and request to have probate proceedings initiated.

Identifying Heirs

State laws determine who the legal heirs are, and these include the children, spouse, and parents of the deceased person. If the person left no will and no heirs, all his estate goes automatically to the state.

Distribution of the Estate

Once the heirs have been identified, the court proceeds to determine what properties need to be divided and segregated for distribution among the heirs. Property that can be distributed automatically, like money in joint bank accounts, real estate, and even automobiles can be distributed right away. The rest are distributed according to state laws

Where to File for Probate?

In most states, probate proceedings are handled by probate courts in the county where the deceased person last resided. If the deceased owned a home, it may be filed in the county where the home is located.

Probate law provides a reliable process for those who die without leaving a will. However, you have more control over how your estate is distributed if you prepare a will. Talk to your probate lawyer about how you can prepare a will to make the probate process easier for your loved ones once you are gone.