What Happens When A Will Cannot Be Found?


When a last will and testament cannot be located, is invalid, or does not exist, the deceased person's estate will generally be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These laws vary by state but generally provide that the deceased person's assets will pass to their closest living relatives in a specific order. This process depends on the state's laws of succession. 

What Is Succession?

The succession process involves identifying all the heirs or potential heirs of the deceased person, and determining how the assets of the estate will be distributed among them. This may involve the probate court reviewing legal documents and hearing testimony from family members or other interested parties. The goal of the succession process is to ensure that the assets of the estate are distributed in a fair and equitable manner, in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction where the estate is being probated.

If the deceased person had a surviving spouse, the spouse would usually inherit a certain percentage of the assets, with the rest passing to the deceased person's children or other close relatives. If the deceased person had no surviving spouse or children, their assets may pass to their parents, siblings, or other relatives, depending on the specific laws of the state. With succession, there are no provisions for charity bequests, guardianship, or other common things available when a will is filed. 

There Is No Substitute for a Last Will and Testament

It's important to note that the laws of intestacy may not reflect the deceased person's wishes regarding the distribution of their assets, so it's always a good idea to have a valid last will and testament in place. If a will is not presented to the probate court, loved ones may have very little power to control how the estate is divided. 

It's important to note that even if no valid will is found, other estate documents may exist. Life insurance policies, certain types of real estate deeds, financial account designations, and trusts must be taken into consideration when it comes to distributing the assets of the estate. In most cases, those provisions are outside the scope of the probate court. The assets addressed with alternative estate plans are not probated. 

If a will cannot be located or is found to be invalid, the estate must still go through the probate process. A probate attorney can advise you on the specific laws and procedures in your state regarding the distribution of assets in the absence of a valid will.


27 April 2023

Find Legal Help for Your Loved Ones

After my mom turned 68 years old, she started doing all kinds of strange things. She spent her monthly retirement checks on excessive amounts of food and clothing but didn't pay her rent or bills on time. At one point, she forgot who I was to her. Since my mom lived alone at an independent apartment complex, I couldn't monitor her behavior every second of the day. I brought these things to my mom's attention, but she refused to get medical help. After my mother called the fire department to report a fake fire, I took legal action. I contacted a general attorney and became my mother's power of attorney. I now had the right to monitor my mom's finances and medical care. If your loved one needs help, read my blog for information on general attorneys. You'll find tips, articles and much more to help you get started.