While most people understand the importance of creating an estate plan, not everyone goes through this process. For this reason, it's possible that people could pass on before they create wills.
When a person passes on without a will (intestate), property is distributed based on the state's intestate succession laws.
With probate for intestate succession, the process is overseen by a probate court. It is up to the court to decide how to distribute assets, while also holding probate hearings.
It's important for loved ones to become familiar with this process, as it helps you better understand the distribution of property and if you have the right to receive anything.
The identification of heirs
When there is no will in place, state laws determine who receives the property after the person's death. Generally speaking, there are classes of heirs that determine the order of distribution as well as how much each person will receive.
In most cases, surviving spouses and children come first, followed by parents and any other blood relatives who are still living.
Once the identification of heirs is complete, the court then makes a final decision on which assets to distribute and how to get them into the hands of the appropriate party.
In the end, the probate court is responsible for any final accounting measures and issuing a discharge order. At that point, the probate process comes to its conclusion and the case is closed for good.
If a loved one passes on without a will, there are several things you need to do. In addition to learning more about your state's intestate succession laws, you should focus on your legal rights.
For example, if you think the person created a will, it may be in your best interest to find it and provide it to the court. As long as you understand your legal rights and where you fit into the process, you can be confident in your ability to receive the assets you're entitled to.