Settling an Estate that has no Will

18 April 2017
 Categories: Law, Blog


Settling an estate that has no will can be a challenging process especially for the people who are left behind by the deceased. They have to manage the emotional loss at the same time stay put in order to protect and control the property that is left. The process of settling the estate translates to safeguarding your loved ones property to avoid complications that could result to it getting lost. It extends to paying any outstanding debts and taxes left by the deceased, and distributing the assets to everyone who is entitled to receive it. Let's walk you through a series of factors involved in settling an estate that has been left behind with no written will by the deceased.

Keep Track of Assets That Can't Be Passed by Will

Before you begin the journey of safeguarding the estate of your love ones, you must have some common knowledge on assets that cannot be passed by will. These are bank accounts, assets held in joint tenancy, real estate, community property that has right of survivorship, tenancy by the entirety, properties in living trusts, life insurance proceeds, stocks, and properties held in transfer-on-death accounts.

Copies of Death Certificate

Certified copies of death certificate must be obtained. Make a series of copies from the original document since you will need to attach them on many legal documents during the distribution process.

Who Takes Charge?

Lack of a will means there is no name to take charge of the estate as the executor. The law will provide a list of people who are eligible to be in charge. For cases where a probate court proceeding must be conducted, then the court has the power of choosing someone to fill the role basing on the priority list. Most justice systems will always choose the spouse of the deceased or a registered domestic partner. Children of the deceased come next on the list then other family members if any.   

Distribution of the Estate

The probate court identifies the assets and properties to be distributed and the method that will be used after identifying the legal heirs. There are properties that can be distributed immediately after death even without a will. This may include joint accounts where the surviving partner becomes the rightful owner. Other properties that may distributed immediately after death include automobiles and land.

The family of the deceased must pay attention to ensure that every single step is covered by the specific state laws in action.