If all the siblings agree on splitting their parent's assets equally, do we still have to go through probate?
My mother recently passed away. She thought she had a will, but she only had a letter of intention based on my dad's will. In her letter from their attorney, it was stated that all six siblings should share equally. If we all agree to this, does the property have to go through probate? Can we sell the house with all six signatures? Do we have to put announcements in papers if we are all in agreement? Where do we begin?
You probably will need to proceed through probate, although that should be fairly simple, since you siblings have the good hearts and the good sense to agree on what needs to be done.
The reason is that courts and banks and pension plan companies and such need to be sure that there is no fraud being committed when title to property changes hands. And despite the fact that all you siblings agree on what to do, you will still need to follow some silly-seeming formalities such as running a legal notice in the papers in case there are any creditors who need to be notified of the death.
Your first best place to look for information is the local probate court. These days, many of them have good websites, which explain the required procedures and even supply the forms needed to be filed. Other courts have self-help centers that give good guidance by phone or in person. And in still other areas, you may be able to get all the help you need from a friendly court commissioner.
You and yours may need to bring to the table the willingness to do some legwork, follow instructions, and cooperate--and you already know you can do this last beautifully.
Since your mother did not have a will, she died intestate, and you will be required to file an intestate probate proceeding in the state where your mother's property is located. The size of your mother's estate and the intestacy laws in the state where she owned property will determine the exact process that will be required. It will not be necessary for all six siblings to be executors of the estate; all of the siblings can agree on which sibling(s) should be responsible for administration of the estate. The website for the state's bar association should have information about probate administration in that state. You can also check the website for your local clerk of court.
Mindy Stein www.mindystein.com
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