What happens if someone dies without a will?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2023 | Estate Planning

When a loved one dies, it can be a confusing and traumatic time for those who were close to the deceased. Unfortunately, most people in America complicate the situation more by neglecting to create an estate plan before their death. In fact, almost 70% of adults in the United States die intestate, meaning they do not even have a simple will in place. 

The legal process after death 

Probate is the formal court proceeding that transfers the property of a deceased person to their legal heirs. For those who have few assets and heirs, this may be a straightforward process. However, in many cases, it involves complex steps, including the requirement that potential heirs prove they are next of kin.  An estate intestate may have further complications if there are unique circumstances of a family, such as: 

  • An heir who receives government benefits because of special needs 
  • Family members who do not live close to the deceased 
  • Complicated assets, such as property in another state or assets that are difficult to valuate 
  • Family members with difficult issues, such as addictions to drugs, alcohol or gambling  
  • Minor children who were in the custody of the deceased 

Others with whom the deceased was close, such as stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, usually do not qualify as heirs of an intestate estate. Someone who has particular wishes for how to distribute his or her assets must put those wishes in writing since the Oregon probate court is bound to follow the laws of the state. The language of a will should be precise to avoid confusion, so it is wise to have legal advice along the way.