How to Settle Your Husband's Estate Without a Will

By John Cromwell

If your husband dies without a will, his estate is "intestate.' That means that a local probate court will oversee the distribution of your husband’s assets. The rules regarding how your husband’s estate will be distributed vary by state. However, there are some steps that most intestate estates must go through regardless of where they are located.

Get Appointed as Administrator

Normally one of the first things that a probate court will do is appoint an administrator over the estate. The estate administrator’s job is to be the point of contact responsible for overseeing the day-to-day probate process, protect the estate assets, and report to the probate court about the estate. Any legal matters regarding the estate are normally addressed to the administrator. Generally, a probate court will appoint the surviving spouse as the administrator if it believes that the she can handle the responsibility. If not, the court will either appoint a surviving relative or a professional administrator to oversee the probate process.

Gather the Estate Assets

Gather all of the assets that will be included in your husband’s estate. Assets that go into the estate include real estate, financial securities and funds owed to the decedent. Property that your husband owned or controlled during his life that is automatically transferred to another party, such as life estates or property he had access to as beneficiary of a trust, are not included in the probate estate. When gathering the estate assets, check to see if you live in one of the 13 community property states. If you do, generally any property acquired during the marriage automatically reverts to you and is not included in the estate.

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Pay Outstanding Debts

Pay off your husband's debts using the estate assets. Possible creditors normally must inform the administrator of the debt within a certain amount of time in order to be able to collect. If the estate does not have enough assets to settle all of the debts, the debts are normally required to be paid off in the following order: costs of the estate administration; the funeral expenses; debts and taxes; then all other claims. The administrator is generally not personally responsible for the debts of the decedent. However, if your deceased husband incurred the debt during your marriage, you may still be required to pay.

Distribute Property

Once all of the debts have been paid, distribute the remainder of the estate property. Under most state succession laws, the majority of the estate will go to you as the surviving spouse. How much the surviving spouse gets depends on whether the deceased had any surviving children or parents.

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How Much of a Husband's Estate Is a Widow in Florida Entitled To?


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How to Handle a Deceased Father's Estate

If your father died leaving property to heirs, you must initiate the probate process with the local probate court. This is true whether or not he left a valid will. If you have been appointed executor of his estate, you must also perform certain administrative duties throughout the probate process. Among other duties, you will be responsible for distributing property according to your father's will, if he left one. In the absence of a valid will, his property will be distributed in accordance with state intestate law. The probate process can take years if the estate is complex or if the will is disputed.

How to Find Out if My Father Left Me Any Assets

When an individual dies, his assets pass to his beneficiaries according to the terms outlined in his will. If he did not leave behind a will, he died “intestate,” and the probate court in the county where he lived distributes his remaining assets according to state law. As the child of the deceased, you may be entitled to an inheritance regardless of whether your father left behind a will. The will's executor or the probate court must notify you of any inheritance you are scheduled to receive after your father's death. The probate process, however, is not perfect and beneficiaries do not always receive proper notice of their inheritance. If you suspect you may be entitled to a portion of your deceased father's estate, you have several options, depending on whether your father left a will.

How to Settle a Personal Estate

When a person creates a will, she often includes language in the will identifying a person who will serve as the executor of the estate when the will creator dies. A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate.” Whereas an executor handles estate assets under a will, an administrator handles a deceased person’s estate if the person died intestate. Although the titles differ, both executors and administrators are responsible for managing the distributing the decedent’s estate.

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