Family Member Dies Without A Will

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If one of your family members or someone close to you dies without a will or other estate documents prepared you may be wondering what you need to do.  In addition to the loss and sorrow you might experience with the passing of a loved one, whether unexpected or not, you may be confused about how to proceed.  You may also be wondering how certain property will be distributed between those who are left behind.  During this time of confusion and loss the help of an estate attorney can be valuable.

Intestate is the word used to describe the situation where a person dies without a will.  A will is the document that sets forth the desires of the deceased with regard to how his or her property should be distributed between those left behind.  If there is no will, then the default is to use the intestacy laws or statutes that have been enacted by the state.
These laws can vary from state to state but they generally include the procedures for allocation and distribution of the property and assets of the person who has died.  The rules for who is entitled to property are sometimes referred to the rules of succession.

One question you may have is whether or not you need to file anything with the court.  Whether or not any court proceeding is necessary is usually determined by the value of the assets owned by the deceased at the time of death and whether or not they owned any property.

The fewer assets owned by the person who died, then generally the simpler the administration of the estate.  If the person owned real property, then collecting and administering that property can be more complicated than if only money is involved.  Whether or not the person was married at the time of death can also affect how the estate should be administered.  Administering an estate without a will is particularly complicated if there are children, as well as a spouse, that are left behind.

Administering an estate without a will can go more smoothly when you involve a legal professional.   An attorney who specializes in intestate administration can help you figure out the best way to proceed and understand the legal consequences of intestate.  An estate lawyer can help you determine what documents if any need to be filed, how to communicate with banks, the DMV or other agencies that might need to be notified of the person’s passing.  The Law Offices of R. J. Salvato have the legal expertise and experience to help you navigate this difficult period.