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When There Is No Will: What to Do Next

When there is no will when someone dies, this is known as dying "intestate." If this happens, the state probate court will appoint a Personal Representative, also called an "Administrator." This person will receive and handle claims toward the estate, pay creditors and distribute remaining property as to the state inheritance laws that exist at the time of death.

Gather All Records

Before you contact anyone, gather all of the documentation that you have access to. Make a timeline with any information that you were told or are aware of as to the decedent's wishes. List everything that could be considered evidence. You may need this to verify your claims. Also include documents that identify you as a party to the matter, such as your legal birth certificate and any former or related will or financial documentation.

Call the Local Probate Court

To find out about how to proceed with claiming rights to assets, call the local probate court about procedure. See if there are any hearings already scheduled as to the estate of the decedent and make a note of those. Most often, you will be told that they cannot offer legal advice. If you have one particular question, such a which form to file to gain access to an account, you can ask about that. Find out what the fees are to file those forms.

Consult an Attorney

Since state law is often different in each state, contact an estate attorney to get guidance. Arrange to have a consultation to find out about fees and advice. You can also research the laws in your state if you wish, using a service like Nexus Lexis. There are also simple services from probate specialty paralegals which could be more affordable. Legal Aide and state bar association offices are also a resource to find a probate attorney. It is best to consult an attorney to navigate the murky waters of the probate system. Laws can be complex and it could actually be more costly without adequate legal guidance.

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