What Happens To An Estate Without A Will

If someone dies without a will, there will likely be some questions that have to be resolved in terms of dividing up their assets. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to rush right to a probate law services firm to get counsel, but you should think about what the next steps will be. Let's take a look at what happens under such circumstances.

Does the Matter Go to Probate?

It may, and it might not. Individual states have rules about how much money has to be in an estate before it automatically goes to probate, with some triggered by amounts as low as $20,000.

Some types of assets don't necessarily need to be transferred via a will. For example, bank accounts can be set up with a person named payable upon death. Once the bank has been presented with clear evidence that the account holder passed and there are no outstanding liens or holds, the money will be transferred. Some property holdings, such as marital property with a surviving spouse, can also frequently be handled without a will.

Some circumstances will increase the chances of a case going to probate. Outstanding tax bills and large debts can justify a probate proceeding. Generally, the more that's at stake in terms of assets and liabilities, the more likely things will land in probate.

What Happens?

An administrator will be appointed by the court. They will have a duty to track down potential living beneficiaries and inform them of what has happened. Each beneficiary has the right to be represented by a probate lawyer services practice.

The administrator ends up mostly doing things that normally would have been dealt with in a will. They will assess what the value of the estate is, and they'll settle any outstanding liabilities.

An administrator's focus will be on distributing assets and proceeds to parties with strong legal claims, such as a spouse or any children. If the person died without close relatives or a marital partner, then the administrator will continue to look for the closest available living relations such as siblings, grandchildren, parents, or cousins.

Notably, an administrator's decisions may run contrary to what had been known to be the deceased's wishes. In the eyes of the law, failing to render a will makes the deceased's desires for an estate largely irrelevant. Heirs are welcome to dispose of their portions of an estate as they see fit.

For more information, contact a probate law service.