What happens with your “stuff” after you die? It does not automatically become the property of your spouse or your child. Someone has to figure out what you own, where it is, what debts you owe, arrange to pay your debts and taxes, and then give what is left to those you would want to have it. Your “stuff” is your estate. If you created a Will and expressed who should inherit your estate, and appointed a Personal Representative to carry out your instructions, that would help take care of the administration of your estate. The Personal Representative, who used to be called the Executor, takes the Will to the Office of the Register of Wills in PA, or to the Surrogate’s Office in NJ, and files, or probates, it. That is the beginning of the process.
If the deceased person did not have a Will, state law dictates who will inherit the estate. It is called Intestate Succession, and generally, a surviving spouse and children are the first priority heirs. If there are no surviving spouse or children, surviving parents would be next in line, and if no surviving parents, then siblings would inherit. Heirship continues to more distant relatives and, finally, the Commonwealth of PA or the State of NJ would receive the estate if there were no relatives.
Miriam N. Jacobson provides the legal services to assist people in administering estates in an orderly and sensitive way. She can guide you whether there is a Will or not. If you have lost a loved one, check the list of documents at items 3 and 4 in this article and call for an appointment to discuss your needs. There is no fee for an initial phone consultation.