When there was no estate planning what happens to the estate?

2 answers | Last updated: Feb 15, 2011
Please help asked...

My grandmother, 101, didn't have a will, nor did my grandfather who passed away years ago. My grandmother just passed away this year.They had six children, but three of them have passed. The question is without a will, what happens to the estate? My mother took care of my grandmother for almost 10 years before she died; she was on her checking account and took care of all of her bills. But there was no will and my grandmother's name was not on the deed.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Because your grandmother died without a will—or “intestate” in legal jargon—her property will be distributed according to the formula set out in state law: mostly likely, divided equally among the surviving four children.

Sometimes this method doesn’t quite seem fair, especially when one of the surviving children has done so much more to care for the parent than the others. But the law just treats all of them equally.

To begin, your mom or one of her siblings should contact the local probate court for the best next steps to take. This court proceeding will also help straighten out the title to the house. In some cases, where there is not a lot of property at stake, survivors can use a simplified procedure, which they can usually handle on their own, without hiring a lawyer for help.

For now, consider that your grandparents have left you a legacy: a hard illustration of what uncertainty you leave behind when you die without a will or other documents specifying how you want your property divvied up.

Community Answers

Rkinnamon answered...

I need to know how soon after my father died are we supposed to get the ball rolling and settling his estate. is there a time limit? thanks!