Steps a Personal Representative Should Take if No Will Can Be Found
Without a last will and testament, it is impossible to say for certain who the deceased person would have selected to serve as his or her personal representative. Therefore, the probate court takes it upon itself to name an individual to fill this role. In most cases, this person is a surviving spouse or an adult child.
If no probate proceeding is required for the estate, there is no need for a personal representative. Regardless, it is the responsibility of the personal representative to collect the property of the deceased, pay off debts and taxes and then distribute remaining assets to individuals who would inherit it under the laws of intestate succession.
Each state has its own intestate succession laws, which can vary slightly from state to state. All of them exist to provide a process as to how to distribute property that does not pass through a will, trust or other estate planning mechanism.
Typically, under intestate succession laws, only spouses, domestic partners or blood relatives inherit property. Unmarried partners, friends and charities will not receive anything from the estate. If the deceased was married, the surviving spouse will get the largest share, and if there are not any children, that spouse will receive all the property. More distant relatives only inherit property if there is not a surviving spouse or child.
There are some rare circumstances in which there are no relatives at all that can be found. In these cases, the state will take control of the assets.
It is the personal representative’s responsibility to distribute the property in accordance with intestate succession laws. To learn more about the steps you should take as a personal representative, consult a knowledgeable Tampa estate planning attorney with BaumannKangas Estate Law.