Intestacy: My father passed away last month. I'm the only child and he wasn't married and had no will. Am I entitled to everything? I've received his death certificates, so what's next. He has only 1 bank account that I know of, his home and vehicles are paid for and he get's a social security check every month. He died in State A I live in State B.
If your father died without a will (intestate) in State A, and was domiciled (lived permanently) in State A, then the State A intestacy laws will govern what happens to his probate property. You can probably find the statutes (laws) pretty easily at your local library or on line. Intestacy laws list by relationship which categories of people inherit assets if there is no will. Likely, after spouse, children would share all, and that should be you. But check the statute.
Also, you'll have to have a filing made in the local court (it could be called Probate Court, Surrogate's Court, Orphans' Court or something similar, the name varies in different areas) for you to be officially recognized as the personal administrator of your father's estate. This will give you the legal authority to transfer assets to you. It will also give you the obligation to pay any bills or estate taxes (if the estate were large enough).
But, before proceeding down the path above you should try to determine if there are probate assets governed by the intestacy laws. If the bank account was owned in joint name with you can simply show the bank a death certificate and obtain the funds. The Social Security Administration needs to be notified to stop sending checks and you may have to repay extra payments. If the home is joint with your it will be yours without probate. If not, you'll need the probate proceeding noted above so you'll have the legal authority to be appointed personal representative (executor, administrator, the name varies by circumstance and state). The car will have to be dealt with as well, but you'll need formal appointment for that alone because its unlikely that the car would be in joint name.
Although the situation sounds simple and straight forward, hire a probate lawyer in State A (we cannot give out any state specific advice, just general information). You'll need the lawyer if you sell the house and even simple sounding situations have twists and complexities. At minimum have a consult with a State B (not State A) probate lawyer so you can be sure you're not missing any issues. It's easier and cheaper to identify options and problems at the beginning.
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