When someone passes away without a will (intestate), the estate distribution process is typically governed by state laws. The specific process can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but here are the general steps involved:
Determine the Executor or Administrator
The court will appoint an executor or administrator to handle the estate. This person is typically a close family member, such as a surviving spouse or an adult child. If no eligible family member can serve, the court may appoint a neutral third party, such as an attorney or a professional estate administrator.
Inventory of Assets
The appointed executor or administrator must compile a comprehensive inventory of the deceased person’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and other valuable assets. This may require obtaining appraisals for certain assets.
Notification of Creditors
Creditors must be notified of the person’s death. The executor or administrator should publish a death notice in local newspapers to inform potential creditors. Creditors usually have a specified period (varies by state) to make claims against the estate.
Payment of Debts and Taxes
The executor or administrator is responsible for paying off the deceased person’s outstanding debts and taxes using the estate assets. This includes funeral expenses, medical bills, outstanding loans, and unpaid taxes.
Distribution to Heirs
After all debts and taxes have been paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the heirs according to the laws of intestate succession in the state. These laws vary but prioritize surviving spouses and close relatives, such as children and parents. The distribution is typically based on a predetermined order of priority and may not align with the deceased person’s preferences.
The executor or administrator may need court approval for the distribution plan to ensure it complies with state laws and is fair to all heirs
Closing the Estate
Once all assets have been distributed, the executor or administrator will file a final accounting with the court. Once the court approves the final accounting, the estate can be closed.
It’s important to note that without a will, the distribution of assets may not align with the deceased person’s wishes. To avoid this and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your preferences, creating a legally valid will and keeping it updated throughout your life is advisable. Estate laws can be complex and vary by jurisdiction, so consulting with an attorney experienced in estate planning and probate matters is recommended to navigate the process successfully.
If you are ready to make a will, consult the experienced and professional Law Firm of Figeroux & Associates. Call 855-768-768-8845 or visit www.askthelawyer.us to schedule a consultation.