When a loved one passes away, emotions often run high. Managing the funeral details, notifying family members and other necessary tasks is stressful for the family members left behind. A will can ease some of the pressure, as there are provisions for dividing the estate. However, if you do not have a will, the courts may step in and distribute the estate as it sees fit. At The Law Office of Matthew C. Yu, we have experience in helping clients understand the probate process.

FindLaw states that if you die without a will, the court follows intestate succession laws which control estate division. Even if you spoke with your spouse, sibling or other family members about your wishes, unless you record them in a legal will, they have little bearing on the proceedings. Probate courts appoint an individual to manage the process.

The administrator has the same duties and responsibilities as an executor named in a will, such as the following:

  • Collects estate assets
  • Determines the estate value
  • Pays taxes and other debts
  • Manages estate expenses
  • Handles claims and legal disputes against the estate

The succession laws detail classes of heirs. These guidelines determine the distribution order and estate share for each identifiable living heir, beginning with your spouse, children and close relatives. Charities and friends receive nothing under state laws. If you have a partner, not a spouse, your estate may still go to blood relatives or ex-spouses, as the court does not recognize these relationships. Visit our webpage for more information on this topic.