What happens when a parent dies without a Will?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What happens when a parent dies without a Will?

My father died recently I have been his caregiver for over 20 years. The house is in his name but I was making the payments until the last year or so. We both lived in the house and it should have some equity in it. If I want to continue living in it and possibly sale it, what do I need to do?

Asked on January 12, 2017 under Estate Planning, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If you are the only descendent (i.e. only son or daughter) and your father was not survived by a spouse, you will inherit the home (but will have to pay off any mortgage or liens to do so) unless your father had a will leaving it to someone else. But in the absence of a will, under the rules of "intestate succession," the home goes to the surviving children if there is no surviving spouse. Note that if you have siblings or there is a surviving spouse, you and your siblings and/or your father's surviving wife will share in the house; the fact that you were his caregiver does NOT, unfortunately, give you any greater share of or interest in the home unless he willed it to you.
The house (and anything else he owned, like a car, jewlery, a bank account, etc.) will have to go through probate before it is yours. You can get information about the process and instructions from your probate or surrogate's court, though you may wish to make things easy on yourself and hire a probate attorney to help you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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