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My Loved One Passed Away Without a Will - Now What?

If you have been tasked with settling the estate of deceased loved one who has not left a will, you probably have several questions about how their estate will be distributed. When someone passes away without having created a last will and testament during their lifetime, their assets and property are distributed in probate court according to intestate succession laws. Under intestacy, after all debts and court fees have been settled, the decedent's property, possessions, bank accounts, and other assets will be distributed to their closest living relatives according to a state-established hierarchy.

While there is no clear way to predict exactly how assets will be divided by the state, common outcomes are as follows:

  • The estate of a single person without children goes to his or her parents, or, if they are no longer living, to their siblings or next-of-kin.
  • The children of single persons receive the entire estate.
  • Spouses get one-half to one-third of the estate, with the rest divided among children or the deceased's parents.

When there is no will, an executor of the estate will be chosen by the court based on a priority list of eligible parties. Surviving spouses are often the first in line to be named as executor, with adult children, parents, and other parties following. In certain states, domestic partners may be granted the same rights as married couples with regards to inheritance and burial rights, though in many other states these rights are not automatic and must have been established in the decedent's estate plan. Once an executor or "administrator" has been named, the decedent's assets are then collected, appraised, and sold or distributed to their heirs.

In many cases, estate distribution according to intestacy yields a result that differs from what the deceased would have wanted. Likewise, the probate process can be notoriously complicated and expensive, forcing the decedent's family to go through the difficulty and frustration of navigating through the system without their loved one's guidance. Passing away without a will also prevents a decedent from being able to set out details regarding how they would like to be memorialized, as well as preventing them from being able to leave any portion of their estate to charity. For this reason, it is important that every adult takes the time to draft a will with the assistance of a skilled attorney.

Dallas Probate Attorneys - (888) 387-9843

If you have been named the executor of a loved one's estate, contact the Dallas probate lawyers at The Johnson Firm, P.C. Our father and daughter firm has more than 45 years of combined legal experience and can lessen the burden you carry during this difficult time. To find out more about our service and how we can assist you, schedule an initial consultation today.

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  • Richard P. Johnson is Board certified Texas Board of Legal Specialization Estate Planning And Probate
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