In Pennsylvania, if someone dies without a will, “intestate succession” laws come into play and his or her assets will go to the closest relatives. If your parent died without ever meeting with a lawyer to execute estate planning documents, you likely feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what may happen to his or her estate.
After diligently searching and confirming that there was in fact no will, you should take further immediate steps before the probate process begins.
Compile a list of financial information.
Look around your parents’ house for any business cards of accountants, attorneys or financial advisors. Gather any financial statements that cover the month in which your parent died. These documents will typically indicate ownership of the asset as well as show the values of the property needed for estate tax returns and probate.
You should also gather your parent’s tax returns and record all of his or her assets.
Search for a safe deposit box.
If your mother and father had a safety deposit box, they likely kept important legal documents stored in it, so accessing it is very useful. If your parents did not name you a signatory on the box, you will have to follow Pennsylvania law in order to gain access to its contents.
Consult with an attorney.
The attorney you speak to can be your own lawyer, a new lawyer or your parent’s lawyer. Hiring someone to administer the estate may greatly alleviate your stress and find you comfort, knowing that you have some knowledgeable assistance.
Overall, finding out that your parent died without a will may feel stressful, but it is not the end of the world.