What Happens When Someone Dies without a Will?

Losing a loved one is often devastating. Dealing with the emotional impact and the grief can be overwhelming, but when the loved one dies without a will or other estate planning documents in place, having to deal with their final affairs can amplify that emotional stress. When a person dies without a will, it is referred to as intestate. In these situations, the laws of the state the person lived in will determine how their assets and property will be dispersed.

If you have lost a family member who did not have a will, contact an estate planning lawyer Abingdon, VA trusts that will work diligently to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Intestate Succession Laws

If a single person with no children dies without a will, intestate succession laws declare that their assets should go to their parents or siblings. If there are no living parents or siblings, then the assets should go to nieces, nephews, or other distant relatives. If the single person had children, then their assets will go to those children. If the person was married, then the part of the estate that is deemed “marital property” will go to the spouse. Unmarried couples do not have any legal rights to each other’s estate if there is no will in place and this can make a difficult decision even worse.

Probate Process

All wills need to go through the probate process. When a person dies without a will, or the will is deemed invalid, then the probate court makes the decision on how the estate will be distributed based on the intestate laws of the state. The court will appoint someone to be the executor of the estate. It is this person’s responsibility to do the following:

  • Determine the value of all property of the estate
  • Make sure the estate is being probated in the appropriate county
  • Make sure the court has a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
  • Notify the decedent’s family and any other appropriate parties of the decedent’s death
  • File a petition for Letters of Administration with the court. This document verifies the appointment of the executor and verifies that they have the authority to handle the financial and legal affairs of the estate
  • Carry out whatever the court’s instructions on the estate disposition

Contact an Attorney Today

It is critical to guarantee that you last wishes are carried out that you have a valid will in place. An estate planning attorney can assist you and ensure that your family will not be left dealing with intestate issues. A will makes the probate process much easier for families to deal with. Not having a will can lead to a drawn-out and possibly contentious process that ends up turning family members against each other.

Don’t let this happen to your family. Contact an estate planning attorney today.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt for their insight into estate planning.