What Happens When Someone Dies Without A Will?

Man worried on the couch.

It can make the worst even worse, a loved one has died without a will (0r any kind of planning). It happens every day, and always leaves loved ones in a lurch. When this happens, it’s up to the family to navigate Probate Court. Ideally, people navigate this challenge with the help of an attorney, but there’s some basic information everyone needs to know.

Probate Court is how assets pass to next of kin, both with and without a will. The only way to avoid probate court is with proper estate planning! While a will tells the court who should get what, for people who pass without planning (or die with debt) it can get a bit more complicated.

Court fees and creditors are paid upfront out of the estate. This process can take upward of six months! From there, it depends on what family members survive the departed. When the individual who has passed was married, and that spouse was the natural or adoptive parent of the decedent’s children, that individual would receive the full amount of the post-fee estate.

When someone passes and their spouse is not the legal parent of all of the decadent's children, it can get complicated. The property would be split unevenly between the spouse and children. An initial, set portion goes to the spouse. That portion is determined by law based on any shared children. The remainder is divided evenly among the decedent's children.

This gets even more tangled when individuals are survived by grandchildren, rather than children. In that instance, the estate is portioned out based on the number of children the couple shared, then passed down and divided linearly.

It is possible to settle an estate without a will, but it's a bad idea to do so. Even the basic framework that a will gives lacks the protections most families need. Probate court fees can quickly spiral and devour a legacy. Regardless if you are staring down the barrel of probate court, or looking to avoid it for your family, your first step should be to get the help you need! Give us a call today at 419-352-7522 to start the conversation.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney