My Mom Or Dad Died Without A Will: What Do I Do With Their House?
- If either of your parents die without a will and you need to take over ownership or sell their house, you have two options: opening an administration with the Court via intestate succession (which is exhausting and time consuming) or using an affidavit of heirship.
- Most title companies will allow the sale of a property with two affidavits of heirship credibly identifying the heirs. There are some limitations to the use of affidavits of heirship, but it is almost always the less expensive method as compared to opening an administration.
- You should try to get your parents to certify you as payable-upon-death on their bank accounts while they are living. This will help you deal with their bank accounts when they die.
In the event that either of your parents die without a will, you essentially have two choices if you need to take over ownership of their house or sell their house after their death.
The first option is to open an administration with the courthouse under the laws of intestate succession. That’s a time-consuming and expensive process.
The second option is an affidavit of heirship. Most title companies will allow the sale of property upon receipt of two affidavits of heirship which identify who the heirs to the property are and who would receive the proceeds upon their death.
The use of an affidavit of heirship has some limitations, mostly depending upon who the heirs are or if there were children not of the same parents, but it is an option for the sale of a home, and it is almost always a much less expensive option than opening an administration at the Courthouse.
My Mom Or Dad Died Without A Will. What Do I Do With Their Bank Accounts?
The question of what happens to your parents’ bank accounts if they die without a will is somewhat complicated. The very best thing you can do is get your parent(s) to identify you as a payable-on-death beneficiary on their bank accounts while they are still living.
I have had many people come to my office and say, “I can’t access my parent’s bank accounts. The bank is requiring that I get a letter testamentary or a letter of administration from the Courthouse”.
If your parent or parents died without a will, your only option for dealing with their bank accounts at that point is to open up an intestate administration, which can be very time-consuming and very expensive. In some cases, it may not even be reasonable, considering how much money they may have had in their account at the time of their death.
Instead, if it is at all possible, do it while they are still living. They can go to their financial institution and fill out a payable-on-death form signed to their children upon their death. This usually takes only 5-10 minutes.
If your parent(s) fill out a payable-on-death form, then when they die, all you have to do is present a certified copy of their death certificate and the bank is contractually obligated to pay those funds to you. If they have no payable-on-death form at the time of death, you have to go through an administration at the Courthouse. I have seen this happen many, many, many times. Please encourage your parents to go to their financial institution and fill out a payable-on-death form. You will be very glad that they did upon their death.
Hello, I’m Seth Bell of the Law Office of Seth K. Bell. I’ve been licensed to practice law in the state of Texas since 1997. Born and raised here in San Antonio, my office specializes in the practice areas of probate and estate planning, real estate, and oil & gas. I look forward to being a service to you.
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