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My Parents Died Without A Will, What Should I Do?

On Behalf of | Dec 21, 2022 | Estate Planning

Losing a parent is one of life’s most trying experiences. In addition to coping with your grief, you might be unsure what to do about your parent’s outstanding bills, home, and car. Even without a will, the law provides a way for property to be distributed to a person’s heirs. The attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC are here to answer your questions about the process of managing your parent’s estate. We can help when you’re struggling with the question, My parents died without a will, what should I do?

What Happens When a Person Dies Without a Will?

After a person dies, all of their property goes into their estate. Before any money can go toward bills or inheritances, the estate must go through probate. The probate court handles the legal issues and procedures related to distributing an estate. To begin the probate process, someone must apply to be the estate administrator.

A person with a will typically names an executor to manage the estate in that document. In the absence of a will, Tennessee intestate succession law instructs the probate court on who to appoint as administrator. Tennessee Code Section 30-1-106 gives preference to the person’s spouse. If the spouse does not apply, the next of kin, such as children, grandchildren, or parents, have preference. When multiple family members apply, the court will hold a hearing to determine who should be the administrator. Finally, the court may appoint a creditor to manage the estate if no family members apply.

What Are the Administrator’s Responsibilities?

The estate administrator is responsible for wrapping up the deceased person’s financial affairs and distributing the property in the estate. First, they must file a petition with information about the deceased person and verify that they died intestate, which means they died without a will. Once appointed, they must take an oath to perform the administrator’s duty faithfully. That duty includes collecting and assessing the deceased person’s property.

The administrator must complete specific tasks within 60 days. First, the administrator must file an estate inventory. Then, they must notify creditors and potential beneficiaries of their appointment. They must also inform TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, of the person’s death.

To receive payment, creditors must file their claims against the estate within 12 months of the person’s death or 60 days of receiving notice. The administrator must pay these claims before distributing property to the heirs. When a claim is contested, the administrator must hold funds to cover it until the court determines whether the claim must be paid. If your parent owned a business, the court may allow the administrator to continue the business during probate.

Once the administrator pays the bills, they will distribute any remaining assets to the person’s heirs. After they pay the estate balance, they must file an accounting with the probate court, which will review the accounting for compliance.

How Does Property Pass To the Family?

The estate administrator must distribute the deceased person’s property according to state law. The administrator must pay funeral expenses, federal and state taxes, Medicaid claims, and other debts before any inheritance. However, the law reserves certain property for the family.

Under Tennessee law, the person’s spouse automatically gets all personal belongings, including a vehicle, up to a market value of $50,000. The house goes to the surviving spouse and then to the minor children. Finally, the spouse or dependent children may request a year’s worth of living expenses be paid from the estate.

Once bills and expenses are paid, the administrator can distribute the remaining value to the person’s heirs. Tennessee intestate law determines who gets a share when someone dies without a will, based on who survives. Here’s a quick overview of the most common situations:

  • In a family with a surviving spouse and surviving children, the spouse receives one-third of the estate, and the children divide the remainder;
  • In a family with a surviving spouse and surviving children, if a child’s share is larger than one-third of the entire intes
    tate estate, then the surviving spouse’s share will be the same size as the child’s share;
  • In a family where the parent’s spouse predeceased them, but one or more children survive, the surviving children receive an equal share of the estate; and
  • If some of the person’s children predeceased them and were survived by their own children, then the surviving grandchildren will equally split the share that would have gone to their deceased parent.

Once an heir receives their share of the estate, they must swear in court or in front of a notary public that they received it. In most cases, the administrator lawfully distributes an estate without any issues. However, an heir does have the right to object to the administrator’s actions.

Batson Nolan PLC: Probate and Real Estate Lawyer Serving Tennessee Families and Estates

Batson Nolan PLC can help you administer your parent’s estate or claim your inheritance. Our estate planning and probate lawyers will treat your family with the utmost respect and sensitivity. We keep up to date on Tennessee’s probate and intestate laws, so you can be sure you’ll be fulfilling your obligations and protecting your rights as you administer your parent’s estate or seek your inheritance. We can handle the details of transferring the title to your parent’s home and ensuring you receive the share you deserve. Let us deal with the legal matters while you focus on healing from your loss. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.