What happens when you do not have a will?
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What Happens When You Don’t Have a Will?

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What happens when someone dies without a will?

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 someone dies without leaving written instructions on how to dispose of an estate, the state steps in. Your first move is to determine how to work with the state in handling the final affairs.

Intestacy

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 make distributions from the estate to any rightful heirs.

Court-Appointed Representative

If someone dies intestate, the court may appoint a husband, child, sibling or other appropriate individual 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 the final affairs.

Taxes and Creditors

Before assets from the estate can be distributed to the heirs, the court-appointed representative must settle any outstanding debts that were left, deducted from the assets of the estate. These debts include any funeral expenses. The court-appointed representative must also file final federal and state income tax returns. If the deceased party owes income taxes, the amount owed must be deducted from the estate. If the deceased party 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.

Succession

After settling the debts and tax obligations, the court-appointed representative distributes any remaining assets to the 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.

Contact Tanko Law today at  (702) 367-6636 for your free consultation.

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