When someone dies without a legal will, this is known as an intestate death. This is unrelated to an interstate death, when someone dies in a different state than where they ordinarily lived. In terms of distributing the assets of someone who died without a will, an intestate death can result in some complications, but ideally, this will not be the case. What should you do when a family member dies without leaving a will?

Discussing the Matter With Other Beneficiaries

Working under the assumption that you would have been a beneficiary of a will (had it existed), you must determine the most appropriate way to disperse the assets left behind by your family member. This is not your sole decision or responsibility, and it can be beneficial to discuss the matter with other family members and potential beneficiaries. Ideally, a consensus can be reached without animosity as to who gets what.

Consulting a Legal Professional

A deceased estate lawyer can assist with the correct procedure for probate. Probate is possible with or without a will, and it's the legal process in which a will is executed, with the distribution of assets in line with the deceased's wishes. When there was no will for the deceased estate, the process is somewhat different. An application will still be made with the court for a grant of probate, which is the first step in releasing certain financial assets (such as a bank account and investments). 

Identifying All Assets

Another role that a deceased estate lawyer will perform is the identification of all assets, as this isn't always clear when your family member didn't leave a will. This is an essential step, as it's impossible to distribute your family member's assets until the extent of these assets can be conclusively determined. 

Reaching a Consensus

It might be that logical beneficiaries (primarily yourself and other family members) can jointly discuss the matter with a deceased estate lawyer. This is why consulting with each other and reaching a general consensus can greatly simplify the process. If there are any disagreements as to the most appropriate distribution of assets, you may need to consult your own solicitor.

The death of a family member is clearly an emotionally complex time. If they didn't leave a will, it can also be a legally complex time. A deceased estate lawyer can clarify matters and can help you and other beneficiaries receive a fair share of the estate.