It would be nice if you could compel your father or mother, your grandmother or grandfather, or even your distant relatives, to do the littlest bit of planning and leave a Will. Just a simple little document that you could use to timely open a probate proceeding and transfer the house and the bank account.
Failing that, it would be a bit more messy, but still somewhat nice, if when one of the relatives died without a Will someone promptly filed an application to legally determine that person’s heirs. Just a simple probate proceeding that formally identifies who rightfully inherits the relative’s property.
What would not be nice, and indeed turns out to be a very sticky situation, is when a relative or two dies and nobody does anything on the probate side. No Will, no declaration of heirs, nothing.
How the heck is anyone going to legally claim the deceased’s property?
This is a fairly common problem. Consider this situation. Mom and Dad don’t have Wills. Dad dies. No one files an application to determine heirs. Mom continues to live in the family house. Then 10 years later, mom dies. The kids want to sell the house but guess what? They can’t, because there isn’t a legal determination after Dad died about who inherited his share of the house. There also isn’t a legal determination after Mom died about who inherited her share of the house. No one has authority to hire a realtor or to sign the title to the house. A title company isn’t going to issue insurance.
That’s the uncomplicated version. Pick any number of complicating facts. Dad owned the house before he married Mom. Dad had kids from a prior marriage. One of Mom and Dad’s kids has special needs and is getting government benefits. The house is really part of a ranch with mineral interests. Mom and Dad had a Trust but there aren’t any documents conveying the house to the Trust.
The answer? Probate promptly, with or without a Will.
Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give us a call. We can help.
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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.