What Happens When A Person Dies Without A Will?
A prudent person or married couple will go to an attorney to have a Will drafted so that their property goes to the people they intend after their death. However, it is very common for people to postpone having a Will drafted because the subject of death is naturally unpleasant. It is therefore common for residents of Kootenai County and elsewhere to die without a Will. When this happens, the heirs left behind must still deal with the assets and liabilities left behind after a person dies.
Generally, unless there are little or no assets, it will be necessary to initiate a Probate proceeding to dispose of the assets and pay the liabilities of the deceased.
A probate attorney will file a Petition in court, and will initially ask the probate judge to appoint a Personal Representative for the Estate. The Personal Representative is the person who handles the day to day affairs of the estate. For example, if the estate of the deceased includes a house, the Personal Representative (PR) will make sure that the heating and other utility bills are paid until the probate is concluded. In fact, all assets must be marshaled and protected by the PR – that is one of his or her duties.
Before distributing any assets, the debts of the deceased must be determined. These include known debts (such as utility bills) as well as unknown debts. To make sure that no unknown debts are missed, the attorney for the PR will publish a Notice to Creditors in the local newspaper. The notice will advise all potential creditors that, unless they file a creditor’s claim within a certain period of time, those debts will be forever barred. This publication of the Notice to Creditors is very important. Why? Because if the PR distributes the assets of the Estate to the heirs, but has failed to publish a Notice to Creditors, then a year later or more a creditor may surface and claim that the deceased owed him money (For example, claiming that the deceased injured her in a motor vehicle accident). In such a scenario, the PR might be held personally liable to pay that debt. However, if a Notice to Creditors was published in a newspaper, and that creditor did not make the claim within the prescribed time limit, the debt has no validity whatsoever.
Once the debts have been disposed of, the PR will distribute the assets of the deceased based upon Idaho’s laws of intestacy. In other words, instead of the property going to the persons the deceased wished, the property is distributed by Idaho statutes.
Therefore, if a person or married couple wants to make sure that their property passes as they wish, and want to select the personal who will act as the Personal Representative, it is important that they have a Will prepared by an attorney experienced in that field.
I have years of experience as a probate attorney, which is invaluable in represent parties in wrongful death cases.