Mother in Law Passed Away With No Will but Also No Assets

Mother in Law Passed Away With No Will but Also No Assets

My mother in law recently passed away without a will. She had no assets except for a car. there are 3 sons but no one is fighting about anything. what do we have to do with her stuff.


You might be able to call your local surrogate's court (might be called by a different name in your area, e.g., probate court, orphan's court, etc.) and see if a clerk can advise you as to whether there is a simplified and low cost procedure for handling a small estate. Many places provides these exactly for situations like yours. If the car was in your late mother-in-law's name you will probably not be able to transfer it without appropriate documents from the court. The document might be called (but again the terminology differs for various jurisdictions) "Letters of Administration" (since there was no will the estate will have an administrator not executor appointed). You'll need a death certificate and some other forms which the court might provide to you in order to handle this.

That being said, and while it seems a shame to tell you to consult a probate attorney in your area, you still should. Given how small matters are you might be able to find an attorney inexpensively through the county bar association in your county. Here are some of the things to consider:

  • Your mother in law might have debts and if you or the others are appointed as administrators those debts will become your responsibility to the extent of the assets in the estate.
  • Most people have bank accounts, a Social Security check in transit, and other assets that you might still find if someone with some experience can help. Perhaps there is a auto insurance policy that has almost a year to run that was paid by her.
  • A final income tax return may still be required for your mother in law.
  • You might need to address insurance for the car in the interim.
  • etc.

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