Death Without a Will. My parents died without a will. What should I do?
If your parents died without a Will, it is challenging to know how to divide their property and assets legally. When there is a death without a Will, it is known as dying “intestate.” If this is your situation, you must determine how your state laws dictate asset distribution. Below, we will explore the steps to take and the legal processes involved when handling your parent’s property if they pass away without a Will.
1. Identify the Heirs and Assets
First, you must identify their heirs and take inventory of the assets. Heirs typically include surviving spouses, children, or other close family members. Compile a comprehensive list of assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal belongings, and any outstanding debts.
2. Contact an Attorney
Death without a Will requires following certain laws. Dealing with the probate process and intestate succession laws can be complex. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can provide valuable guidance, helping you navigate the legal requirements correctly. If the deceased lived in Tennessee, an attorney in the state can help you understand Tennessee’s specific laws on intestate succession.
3. Probate Court Proceedings
In most cases, when a person dies intestate, the estate will go through a probate court proceeding. Probate is the legal process of validating the deceased person’s Will (if one exists) or overseeing the distribution of their assets without a Will. The court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate.
4. Administrator Appointment
The probate court will typically appoint an administrator, often a family member or a professional administrator, to manage your parent’s assets. The administrator’s responsibilities include paying off outstanding debts, taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs according to state law.
5. Asset Distribution
State laws vary, but typically, assets are distributed according to a predetermined order of priority. Surviving spouses and children are often the first in line to inherit. If a person has no surviving spouse or children, the line of succession may extend to grandchildren, parents, or siblings.
6. Debts and Taxes
One of the critical tasks of the administrator is to handle any outstanding debts and taxes of the deceased. These obligations must be paid before the remaining assets can be distributed to the heirs. The administrator will work with creditors and tax authorities to resolve these matters.
7. Property Appraisal
To accurately distribute assets, the administrator may need to appraise and value the property. This is essential for determining the estate’s overall worth and how it should be divided among the heirs.
8. Dealing with Real Estate
If your parents owned real estate, the administrator would be responsible for transferring ownership to the rightful heirs or selling the property and distributing the proceeds accordingly.
9. Court Approval
Once all debts have been settled and assets have been distributed, the administrator will submit a final report to the probate court. The court will review the report and, if satisfied, grant approval for closing the estate.
10. Final Distribution
After receiving court approval, the administrator can distribute any remaining assets to the heirs. It is crucial to keep thorough records of all transactions and distribution to avoid potential disputes among family members.
Summary. Death Without a Will.
Dealing with death without a Will requires you to follow specified state laws. Furthermore, when your parents pass away without a Will, it is both a challenging and time-consuming process. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure you follow the applicable laws and make the process as smooth as possible for all involved parties. Remember, the laws regarding intestate succession can vary by state, so it’s essential to seek legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. To learn more about probate, reach out to us at Kane & Crowell by calling 615-784-4800.