My Mother Died & Has No Will; What Do I Do Next?

By Chris Blank

As heartbreaking as it can be to lose a loved one, the tragedy is often compounded when you discover there isn't a will. When your mother dies without leaving written instructions on how to dispose of her estate, the state steps in. Your first move is to determine how to work with the state in handling your mother's final affairs.

Dying Intestate

When someone dies without leaving a will, the law says that person has died intestate. When someone dies intestate, there is neither a designated executor to carry out the instructions of a will nor an appointed trustee to administer assets from a trust. In these cases, the state substitutes itself for an executor, or trustee, until it can determine who should administer the estate and and make distributions from the estate to any rightful heirs.

Court-Appointed Representative

If your mother dies intestate, the court may appoint your mother's husband, child or sibling as a representative to take the place of an executor or trustee. Most states favor naming close relatives to this role, whenever possible. If there is a dispute between you and one or more relatives about who should be named as a court-appointed representative, the court will decide who will handle your mother's final affairs.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Death, Taxes and Creditors

Before assets from your mother's estate can be distributed to her heirs, the court-appointed representative must settle any outstanding debts she had, deducted from the assets of her estate. These debts include any funeral expenses. The court-appointed representative must also file your mother's final federal and state income tax returns. If your mother owes income taxes, the amount owed must be deducted from the estate. If she is due a refund, the representative must file a Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer, Form 1310, with the Internal Revenue Service.

Laws of Succession

After settling your mother's debts and tax obligations, the court-appointed representative distributes any remaining assets to her rightful heirs. Each state has its own rules for determining who is a rightful heir and the percentage of the estate to which each heir is entitled. These rules are known as the laws of succession. In most states, the spouse is entitled to the largest share of a person's estate who dies intestate, often one-half or one-third. Any living children would be second in line with each child receiving an equal share. If your mother's husband died before her, you and your siblings would then divide the entire estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Find Out if My Father Left Me Any Assets



Related articles

Massachusetts Laws Regarding the Administrator of an Estate

Probate is the court-supervised process whereby the assets of a deceased person are collected and distributed according to the terms of a will, or by state law if no valid will exists. If named in the will, the person charged with handling the probate process and reporting to the court is usually known as an executor. If not named in the will, or if there is no will, the court appoints an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets.

New Jersey's Probate Estate Laws With an Executor Fee

Being asked to settle a deceased person's estate can sometimes feel like taking on a second job. In addition to the time-consuming process of wrapping up the individual's financial affairs, you may be required to make court appearances and could be placed in the middle of a highly contentious family situation regarding inheritance rights. For this reason, New Jersey law gives executors the right to take a percentage of the estate as payment for their services.

Responsibilities of an Administrator Over an Estate in New York

When a New York resident dies "testate" (leaving a will), the Surrogate's Court will be asked to appoint the person designated in the will as the executor to administer the probate of the estate. If a person dies "intestate" (without a will), the court appoints a person called an administrator to oversee the estate. The administrator can be anyone who is eligible to share in the deceased individual's estate under New York law. This is usually the deceased's spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, or brothers or sisters. Once you are appointed as administrator by the court, you are responsible for gathering the assets, paying the debts and taxes, and distributing the estate to the heirs.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

California Executor Checklist

The executor is the person who manages the estate of the deceased, also known as the decedent, during the probate ...

Michigan Death Estate Settlement Procedures

When someone dies, her estate must be settled. The settlement process includes following the terms of the will, paying ...

How Soon After Death Must One Probate a Will in California?

Probate is a legal process by which a person's assets are distributed after death. Probate in California takes place in ...

What Do I Do With His Will if My Dad Passed Away?

When parents pass away, and leave behind a last will and testament, their heirs must navigate the often-complex process ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED