Cousin died He did not leave a will

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DrGrnTum
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Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

My cousin passed away this last April. He did not leave a will. He was the last of his family. He had a house that was completely paid for. Zillow show the house worth around $280k. He had no other assets. At present no one is attending to the house. One of my cousins that use to look in on him has the keys.

The House is located in my home town in California, 2 hours away from me. I estimate that he has around 40 immediate cousins.
I am considering taking over the process of going through probate. I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.

I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by ResearchMed »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm My cousin passed away this last April. He did not leave a will. He was the last of his family. He had a house that was completely paid for. Zillow show the house worth around $280k. He had no other assets. At present no one is attending to the house. One of my cousins that use to look in on him has the keys.

The House is located in my home town in California, 2 hours away from me. I estimate that he has around 40 immediate cousins.
I am considering taking over the process of going through probate. I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.

I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
It doesn't sound like there'd be much money for you, if any (?), but you already figured that out.

My more serious concern is... are you going to end up with lots of family members angry with you because they disagree with how the proceeds were split or how the legal process was handled? Or they thought the house "could have" sold for more?
You could end up with a lose/lose/lose/lose/lose/etc., situation, where many are not satisfied, and for differing reasons.

Is there some professional (lawyer?) who could handle this relatively quickly and without great expense ("sell the house, using a local agent", disburse money using some relatively accepted method of divvying up $ among relatives?), and from a clearly disinterested perspective?
Does the court have a list of <whatever name> to do this in situations such as your family's?

RM
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Gill
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Gill »

Why don't you see if the county where he died has a public administrator who administers estates of decedent's dying without a will or immediate family?
This would accomplish having the estate administered and would avoid you getting into what could be a huge project and a real mess.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Ron »

Intestate (dying without a will) succession varies from state to state. You can't arbitrarily act as agent for distribution of the remainder estate on your own (at least that's the rule in the state I reside in).

I would recommend you investigate the rules under the state of the decedent for direction on how to proceed.

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stan1
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by stan1 »

By "last of his family" do you mean he had no known surviving parents, spouse, children, or siblings?

Of note in California a half-sibling is equal to a full sibling when it comes to intestate succession. Are there any half siblings the family knows of (or salacious family gossip about extra marital affairs or previous marriages)? The half sibling would generally take precedence over cousins (and any children of the half sibling are also cousins). Attorneys who scrape by will scour probate cases and look for half siblings and their children to make claims against the estate. Fun times but sounds like you want something to keep yourself busy. This would serve that purpose.
Last edited by stan1 on Sat Aug 22, 2020 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Newaygo
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Newaygo »

Typically, you have to get a lawyer and go to court and get appointed executor. In my opinion, you do not want the court to appoint an administrator.

You do not know if there are other assets besides the house. If you get appointed executor, then start with the tax returns. The returns will give you a good understanding of the person's financial life. You may have to get copies from the IRS. Talk to people who knew him. I was made executor of an estate. I forensically went through every piece of paper in the home. I spoke to a friend who mentioned that the person worked for the XYZ company 15 years before. I contacted the company and found a forgotten, significant IRA.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by bsteiner »

You can't probate his Will since he didn't have a Will.

Are there any assets to administer?
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FIREchief
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by FIREchief »

Gill wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:45 pm Why don't you see if the county where he died has a public administrator who administers estates of decedent's dying without a will or immediate family?
This would accomplish having the estate administered and would avoid you getting into what could be a huge project and a real mess.
Gill
+1 This is the first thing to check. 8-)
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Capsu78
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Capsu78 »

Not to spin your brain, but here is 44 pages of inheritance disfunction that you may want to browse before making your decision:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/antim ... es-wanted/

Doesn't matter which page- Crazy on all of them!
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celia
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by celia »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
Another BIG benefit for you is that you will learn a lot while cleaning up someone’s estate. It might even give you things to think about in regards to your own estate.

I don’t know how you or anyone else can say the cousin didn’t have a will unless someone spent time looking for it or the deceased told the person who checked in with him that he didn’t have one.

If I was you, here is what I would do:

Call up 3 or 4 cousins on different branches of the family to ask if they know who is cleaning up Cousin A’s estate. Let them know that you are willing to do it if no-one else is. Would they mind if you did it? Do they know of any other relative who would object to you doing it? Do they know if anyone knows of a will? Once you have spoken to different branches and found no resistance, then proceed.

Technically, you’re not supposed to go on the property as you would be trespassing, so find out how to take care of that. See if the cousin with the key can go with you to go inside for the sole purpose of looking for a will and who the property insurance carrier is. Do not remove anything of value, but dump rotting food or other hazards.

I would then make sure the homeowner’s insurance is paid up, especially with all the fires in CA this year. Sort the mail so you can see who the Cousin had dealings with. Follow the lead of the Key Cousin as to what is reasonable to do next.

Start a notebook to record your actions each day you work on the estate. Record who you talked to and what they said on each date and start a new page for each company you interact with leaving the rest of the page for later interaction notes. A notebook will keep everything together as will a holder for various file folders, one for each company that left a paper trail. As you finish business with any company, put the folder at the back in the “completed” section.

Along the way, you need to build an accurate family tree showing how all living relatives are related. Include names and birth/death dates for deceased relatives that link everyone together (grandparents, parents, then cousins. If any cousins preceded Cousin A in death, then include their children. If you do this early on, send it to the cousins you talked to on the phone, to see if they think it is correct. You can also get a freee account on FamilySearch.org to help you piece this together. (The most recent census that is available is 1940.)
Last edited by celia on Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Topic Author
DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

Here is a little more background on my deceased cousin. For most of his adult life he was a shut-in. He lived with his mom and dad and his sister. These were the only people in his family. They have all passed away. The house originally was owned by his parents. He was never married and I do not remember that he ever had a job. He was pretty much disabled and I assume he lived off some government assisted program.

I believe that his house was the only asset he had.
Luckywon
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Luckywon »

I am just about certain you will regret deeply any involvement in this estate other than as a beneficiary. Stay as far away as possible. Don't be surprised if this splits your family apart.
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celia
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by celia »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:12 pm For most of his adult life he was a shut-in. He lived with his mom and dad and his sister. These were the only people in his family.
If the sister ever had children, the children would probably take preference over cousins. Then if either parent had children with a previous spouse, those Half-siblings would come before the cousins.
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dodecahedron
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by dodecahedron »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:12 pm Here is a little more background on my deceased cousin. For most of his adult life he was a shut-in. He lived with his mom and dad and his sister. These were the only people in his family. They have all passed away. The house originally was owned by his parents. He was never married and I do not remember that he ever had a job. He was pretty much disabled and I assume he lived off some government assisted program.

I believe that his house was the only asset he had.
If he got means-tested public assistance, it is entirely possible that the government has a claim on the home equity. It is also possible there may be tax liens on the house if he did not pay his taxes and/or mechanics´ liens if he was unable to pay his bills to contractors. If he did not maintain his homeowners insurance there could be liability issues to anyone who might have gotten injured (e.g., on deterioriated walkway.)

There may or may not be anything left for the 40 cousins.
Last edited by dodecahedron on Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
JGoneRiding
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by JGoneRiding »

I think gill idea is very good. Someone needs to step up or the state and county will get everything.

Generally speaking intestate estates go like this.

Spouse/ children
Parents
Siblings
Grand parents
Forgot niece/nephew here
Aunt/uncle
1st cousins
2ne cousins
The state/sometimes 3rd cousins.

I am guessing 1-5 are ALL missing? Anyone of any of those generations gets it all before cousins.
Then if it gets to cousins its ALL cousins on all 4 sides.

But 1/10 of something is better than nothing and you would also get the executor fee. In all this time has no one applied for the position?
Last edited by JGoneRiding on Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dodecahedron
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by dodecahedron »

I agree with gill that it might be good to get the public administrator involved in this situation.

However, with so many COVID deaths they may be overwhelmed with work in some places.

Also heirs do need to let the public administrator employees know that you are keeping a watchful eye on them as this article illustrates.
123
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by 123 »

Check to see if the property was actually in the sole name of the deceased cousin and not involved with any joint/trust/beneficial ownership and not involved with any reverse mortgage. Most California counties have a grantor-grantee property ownership index available online. There are a number of mechanisms parents could have used. If parents know a child is disabled without further heirs they could have given the child a "life estate" use of property before it passed to a charity (frequently a church). The property deed records should make the situation clear (including unpaid property taxes liens).
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

123 wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:58 pm Check to see if the property was actually in the sole name of the deceased cousin and not involved with any joint/trust/beneficial ownership and not involved with any reverse mortgage. Most California counties have a grantor-grantee property ownership index available online. There are a number of mechanisms parents could have used. If parents know a child is disabled without further heirs they could have given the child a "life estate" use of property before it passed to a charity (frequently a church). The property deed records should make the situation clear (including unpaid property taxes liens).
Thanks, this is the type of info I am looking for.
I am planning to do some preliminary investigating before I fully commit.
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

JGoneRiding wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:25 pm I think gill idea is very good. Someone needs to step up or the state and county will get everything.

Generally speaking intestate estates go like this.

Spouse/ children
Parents
Siblings
Grand parents
Forgot niece/nephew here
Aunt/uncle
1st cousins
2ne cousins
The state/sometimes 3rd cousins.

I am guessing 1-5 are ALL missing? Anyone of any of those generations gets it all before cousins.
Then if it gets to cousins its ALL cousins on all 4 sides.

But 1/10 of something is better than nothing and you would also get the executor fee. In all this time has no one applied for the position?
Actually 1-6 are missing.
His dad and my mom were brother and sister.
We are part of the first 20 of his cousins.
The other 20 are from his mother's side.
His sister never married and did not have any kids.
He was pretty advanced in age and I don't think I'll find uncles, aunts or grandparents.
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

Luckywon wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:18 pm I am just about certain you will regret deeply any involvement in this estate other than as a beneficiary. Stay as far away as possible. Don't be surprised if this splits your family apart.
I am well aware of the nightmare issues that can come up in a family when money is involved.
I don't think there will be that much money.
I am only close to two of my cousins on my mom's side of the family
On the whole that side of the family is not that close.
I don't thing there is much to split apart.

Presently I am just doing some preliminary investigation on the process.
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CAsage
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by CAsage »

I'm an interfering busybody who loves to organize things, solve problems, declutter... financially or physically! In your shoes, I'd be inclined to take this on just as a good will project. Suggest writing a brief letter to every known cousin, with a copy of the list of all of them and their relationship, with your thoughts on helping take this on. If you get a big pushback, drop it. Otherwise... yes, get a book on how to be an Executor in Ca (Nolo Press) and see what help you can get through your local courthouse. I would take an executor fee for myself, just because you will have expenses and time, but that's up to you. It's a standard thing, so don't feel guilty. Of course, you could waive that. You technically don't need to hire a lawyer to settle an estate, but you might need to file forms to be given legal authority. Start with Key Cousin, to see what you can find in the house. And just for fun, run the names of everyone in your antecedents through the Ca unclaimed property data base. Note I"m just a bungling amateur.
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muddlehead
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by muddlehead »

OP. What would make you think the cousin who has the keys will share, if there is any money in the first place to share, part of the 280k w/you?
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tadamsmar
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by tadamsmar »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm My cousin passed away this last April. He did not leave a will. He was the last of his family. He had a house that was completely paid for. Zillow show the house worth around $280k. He had no other assets. At present no one is attending to the house. One of my cousins that use to look in on him has the keys.

The House is located in my home town in California, 2 hours away from me. I estimate that he has around 40 immediate cousins.
I am considering taking over the process of going through probate. I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.

I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
If you are the closet relative to volunteer then you will probably be able to take over the process.

Not sure what you will getting into because I know nothing about doing it in California. You probably just need to sell the property and distribute the funds in accordance with California regulations. Relatives may get upset about some decision you make and all that (seems to be common), but if you follow the regulations (including accounting deadlines) you will likely not have any trouble beyond that. In my state NC you use a estate bank account for all transactions involving the estate. Seek to please the presiding court, not every relative, you will be an agent of the court.

Here is some info intestate succession in California:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... ornia.html

This link is not specific about someone with no close relatives, but "your property won’t go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do."
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Raymond
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Raymond »

muddlehead wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:13 pm OP. What would make you think the cousin who has the keys will share, if there is any money in the first place to share, part of the 280k w/you?
Indeed.

If I were the cousin with the keys who used to check in on the deceased while he was alive, I would look very skeptically at this other cousin (the OP) who lives two hours away, and all of a sudden wants to "take over' the process of distributing the estate, even for the best of reasons.

In the OP's position, I would avoid this potential mess entirely.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by LilyFleur »

When did you last see your disabled cousin? Had you visited him regularly?
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

Raymond wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:43 pm
muddlehead wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:13 pm OP. What would make you think the cousin who has the keys will share, if there is any money in the first place to share, part of the 280k w/you?
Indeed.

If I were the cousin with the keys who used to check in on the deceased while he was alive, I would look very skeptically at this other cousin (the OP) who lives two hours away, and all of a sudden wants to "take over' the process of distributing the estate, even for the best of reasons.

In the OP's position, I would avoid this potential mess entirely.
My cousin with the Keys was indeed the closet to our now deceased cousin.
I am pretty tight with this key cousin. For a while, as a kid he came to live with my family.
He is the one that called me up. He expressed his apprehension about the whole daunting process.

He did the initial contact with a lawyer and the lawyer did state that the line of inheritance is now down to the two sets of cousins.
My cousin stated that he was thinking of letting the house go.
He is still working and as I stated I am retired.
I image If I where to take on this project, it would be with his full cooperation.

Like I have stated in my previous post, this side of the family is not close.
I have to believe that this is why this issue has not been addressed
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

LilyFleur wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:57 pm When did you last see your disabled cousin? Had you visited him regularly?
Pre-Covid 19 I drove up to visit him a couple of times.
He was in a assisted living facility.
I went to see him when he was first admitted.
When Covid-19 turned into an epidemic, visitors were not allowed.
He died at the facility.
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LilyFleur
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by LilyFleur »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:31 pm
LilyFleur wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:57 pm When did you last see your disabled cousin? Had you visited him regularly?
Pre-Covid 19 I drove up to visit him a couple of times.
He was in a assisted living facility.
I went to see him when he was first admitted.
When Covid-19 turned into an epidemic, visitors were not allowed.
He died at the facility.
That is sad that he died without family around him.
Sending my sympathies.
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Watty
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Watty »

If he had a car then be very careful about letting anyone drive it until you are sure that there is car insurance that will cover them.

I don't know if it would be the same in this situation but when we were settling my mom's estate the lawyer said not to let anyone drive her car. The problem was that her car insurance(which was being paid) would not cover the driver since they did not have the owners permission to drive the car. Likewise the drivers car insurance or umbrella policy might not cover the driver since they did not have permission to drive the car.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Dottie57 »

Watty wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:31 am If he had a car then be very careful about letting anyone drive it until you are sure that there is car insurance that will cover them.

I don't know if it would be the same in this situation but when we were settling my mom's estate the lawyer said not to let anyone drive her car. The problem was that her car insurance(which was being paid) would not cover the driver since they did not have the owners permission to drive the car. Likewise the drivers car insurance or umbrella policy might not cover the driver since they did not have permission to drive the car.
+1.

Also if no one is living in the house, insurance held at death may not cover it.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Ragnoth »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:31 pm
LilyFleur wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:57 pm When did you last see your disabled cousin? Had you visited him regularly?
Pre-Covid 19 I drove up to visit him a couple of times.
He was in a assisted living facility.
I went to see him when he was first admitted.
When Covid-19 turned into an epidemic, visitors were not allowed.
He died at the facility.
To recap, your relative died intestate (without a will). The California laws on this are here, but the short version is that if he doesn't have parents, siblings, nephews, or aunts living, it will get split among his cousins equally.

You should have a California lawyer walk you through it, but anybody with an interest in the estate should be able to start the probate process and ask to be named executor. If nobody has done this already, I don't think the court would stop you. At that point, your job would be to sell the house, track down any other assets, compensate the lawyer, pay off any liens, pay any outstanding bills, and send out checks to the ~40 cousins for their share of whatever is left over. The big unknown here is if there are some outstanding liens/debts, or if you have to reimburse the government for some of his disability benefits (this is more of an issue when people have supplemental needs trusts set up for them by their parents; but you never know).

I actually don't think this will cause a ton of drama. It doesn't sound like anybody has an emotional attachment to the house, and the most each person could hope for is pretty small (I would be surprised if anybody got more than $5k at the end of the day). It's basically a question of whether you want to spent the time/energy involved in order to pick up a few thousand for you and each of your relatives.
vested1
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by vested1 »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm My cousin passed away this last April. He did not leave a will. He was the last of his family. He had a house that was completely paid for. Zillow show the house worth around $280k. He had no other assets. At present no one is attending to the house. One of my cousins that use to look in on him has the keys.

The House is located in my home town in California, 2 hours away from me. I estimate that he has around 40 immediate cousins.
I am considering taking over the process of going through probate. I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.

I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
Having seen the anguish my two eldest sisters went though at my parent's death, who had no will or trust, and having handled the disposition of my MIL's estate and affairs at her death, who had a trust, I would advise you to seek a more pleasurable pursuit. Like getting a root canal for instance.

What you describe is a can of worms. Look elsewhere for a project.
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

LilyFleur wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:34 pm
DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:31 pm
LilyFleur wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:57 pm When did you last see your disabled cousin? Had you visited him regularly?
Pre-Covid 19 I drove up to visit him a couple of times.
He was in a assisted living facility.
I went to see him when he was first admitted.
When Covid-19 turned into an epidemic, visitors were not allowed.
He died at the facility.
That is sad that he died without family around him.
Sending my sympathies.
Thank you.
Indeed, his was a sad and lonely life. And on top of everything he died alone.
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

vested1 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:33 am
DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm My cousin passed away this last April. He did not leave a will. He was the last of his family. He had a house that was completely paid for. Zillow show the house worth around $280k. He had no other assets. At present no one is attending to the house. One of my cousins that use to look in on him has the keys.

The House is located in my home town in California, 2 hours away from me. I estimate that he has around 40 immediate cousins.
I am considering taking over the process of going through probate. I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.

I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
Having seen the anguish my two eldest sisters went though at my parent's death, who had no will or trust, and having handled the disposition of my MIL's estate and affairs at her death, who had a trust, I would advise you to seek a more pleasurable pursuit. Like getting a root canal for instance.

What you describe is a can of worms. Look elsewhere for a project.
Do mind giving me an idea of what were the issues your sisters had to deal with?
Was it the headache of the bureaucracy?
Was it more the emotional issues that came up because of the family dynamics?

I did this once before when I had to settle my dad's estate for my mother.
But that was long ago. Things have changed
With Covid-19, and me not being local to the property, I am trying to get an idea of what I am up against.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Luckywon »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:47 am With Covid-19, and me not being local to the property, I am trying to get an idea of what I am up against.
This would vary by county but last year in my county in California, probate court hearings were being scheduled 11 months out. The estate representative will have to send notices to every cousin. Given that the deceased was disabled, some diligence will be needed regarding the status of the property's title and any creditors.

The statutory attorney and executor fees will be a bit less than $10,000 each. The court may approve higher fees if there are unusual expenses and my suspicion is no lawyer in California will take this case without the intention of petitioning for much higher fees based on the number of beneficiaries and other unusual circumstances.

So you are looking at a process that will run years and given its small size to begin with and after legal fees there will be very little left for each of the forty beneficiaries. I am involved in a probate estate in California where the relative died five years ago. Probate continues with no end in sight and I'd say the estate was less complex than your cousin's. I see it pointed out above that for various reasons that make good sense there is unlikely to be much dispute but the fact is that many people are simply not reasonable or logical. Among the forty cousins it is highly likely that there will be at least one nut case that will cause major headaches for you. Another thing to prepare for is that since many of the cousins may be of advanced age and you are looking at a multi-year process, it is quite possible that some will die before the estate is settled so you will be dealing with a situation where you have to identify and deal with their heirs. More work for you and opportunity to get involved in open ended disputes.

Again, stay far away from this. In fact, If you want to do yourself and the family a favor, tell your cousin you are ready to disclaim your share in favor of making more funds available to the estate and its administrator and that you want nothing more to do with it.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by OhioGozaimas »

I think that the Cousin with the keys is and should be the “Key Cousin.”

> You have some personal relationship with him.
> You have more time available (because you are retired).
> And you are willing to participate.

I suggest that you offer your full support and assistance to the Key Cousin. If he accepts your help, you could do whatever tasks (he and you agree) will help move the process forward.

This will take some pressure off him, but he would be “in charge.” You will be helping to resolve the situation, but the outcome will not be not your “responsibility/fault.”

Good luck!
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vested1
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by vested1 »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:47 am
vested1 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:33 am
DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm My cousin passed away this last April. He did not leave a will. He was the last of his family. He had a house that was completely paid for. Zillow show the house worth around $280k. He had no other assets. At present no one is attending to the house. One of my cousins that use to look in on him has the keys.

The House is located in my home town in California, 2 hours away from me. I estimate that he has around 40 immediate cousins.
I am considering taking over the process of going through probate. I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.

I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
Having seen the anguish my two eldest sisters went though at my parent's death, who had no will or trust, and having handled the disposition of my MIL's estate and affairs at her death, who had a trust, I would advise you to seek a more pleasurable pursuit. Like getting a root canal for instance.

What you describe is a can of worms. Look elsewhere for a project.
Do mind giving me an idea of what were the issues your sisters had to deal with?
Was it the headache of the bureaucracy?
Was it more the emotional issues that came up because of the family dynamics?

I did this once before when I had to settle my dad's estate for my mother.
But that was long ago. Things have changed
With Covid-19, and me not being local to the property, I am trying to get an idea of what I am up against.
The anguish with my parents was suffered by my sisters. My parents had no will or trust and had mostly bills, including a mortgage in their 90's. The house needed to be partially remodeled and thoroughly cleaned and painted before it could be sold, which my brother and I did. Dealing with the sale of the house, the probate lawyer, and the notification of their debtors took months. My brother and I ceded the profit from the house to my sisters, which amounted to $12k, 6k each.

My own headaches were dealing with 4 siblings who were too emotional to handle it, not equipped to make good financial decisions, and located in different States. I had to deal with 11 different agencies and companies to settle my MIL's affairs, including accounts we didn't even know about until she died, like an annuity she didn't tell us about, and convincing that company that we had the proper permissions to liquidate it involving multiple notarized documents. I fulfilled her final wishes of being cremated and scattered rather than interred in a mausoleum which had already been paid for with about 5k, and getting the money back to distribute to the siblings. I managed her funeral services with the associated company, paying for some of it out of my pocket when her meager savings ran out.

Some companies were easy to deal with, others were a pain, like her widower's pension provider who demanded a return of the previous months payment in error, refused to settle the account until we contacted the IRS, and kept placing roadblocks until we eventually gave up, losing over 2k in settlement money. I had to sell her condo, fixing it up personally beforehand with no help, placing it on the market and dealing with the contracts, which I did though a great RE agent. I had to deal with her elder attorney, keeping her wishes and interests in mind both before and after her death.
Last edited by vested1 on Sun Aug 23, 2020 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by tadamsmar »

Luckywon wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:12 am
DrGrnTum wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:47 am With Covid-19, and me not being local to the property, I am trying to get an idea of what I am up against.
This would vary by county but last year in my county in California, probate court hearings were being scheduled 11 months out. The estate representative will have to send notices to every cousin. Given that the deceased was disabled, some diligence will be needed regarding the status of the property's title and any creditors.

The statutory attorney and executor fees will be a bit less than $10,000 each. The court may approve higher fees if there are unusual expenses and my suspicion is no lawyer in California will take this case without the intention of petitioning for much higher fees based on the number of beneficiaries and other unusual circumstances.

So you are looking at a process that will run years and given its small size to begin with and after legal fees there will be very little left for each of the forty beneficiaries. I am involved in a probate estate in California where the relative died five years ago. Probate continues with no end in sight and I'd say the estate was less complex than your cousin's. I see it pointed out above that for various reasons that make good sense there is unlikely to be much dispute but the fact is that many people are simply not reasonable or logical. Among the forty cousins it is highly likely that there will be at least one nut case that will cause major headaches for you. Another thing to prepare for is that since many of the cousins may be of advanced age and you are looking at a multi-year process, it is quite possible that some will die before the estate is settled so you will be dealing with a situation where you have to identify and deal with their heirs. More work for you and opportunity to get involved in open ended disputes.

Again, stay far away from this. In fact, If you want to do yourself and the family a favor, tell your cousin you are ready to disclaim your share in favor of making more funds available to the estate and its administrator and that you want nothing more to do with it.
I don't know about California, but this leaves out the two things that you must do in NC because they are required by the courts: (1) File inventories as required before the deadlines (2) Have an in-state representative if you live out of state. If I recall correctly, the other stuff does not have court-imposed deadlines.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by tadamsmar »

OhioGozaimas wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:36 am I think that the Cousin with the keys is and should be the “Key Cousin.”

> You have some personal relationship with him.
> You have more time available (because you are retired).
> And you are willing to participate.

I suggest that you offer your full support and assistance to the Key Cousin. If he accepts your help, you could do whatever tasks (he and you agree) will help move the process forward.

This will take some pressure off him, but he would be “in charge.” You will be helping to resolve the situation, but the outcome will not be not your “responsibility/fault.”

Good luck!
From my direct observations with my relatives, pledging you full support and assistance to an executor is much more frustrating and stressful and takes more work that being an executor. I would definitely not do that.

If you are the executor then you can just hire someone to do various tasks and use fund from the estate to pay for the work. If there are no funds in the estate then you can just close it out the easiest way possible.

If you are a pledge to help, then you may end up doing those same tasks for free in a effort to move things along only to have the executor procrastinate to the point where the only remedy is to report him to the courts and have him removed from the job. I am not exaggerating, there is an ongoing situation like this in my family right now.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Carefreeap »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:31 pm
LilyFleur wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:57 pm When did you last see your disabled cousin? Had you visited him regularly?
Pre-Covid 19 I drove up to visit him a couple of times.
He was in a assisted living facility.
I went to see him when he was first admitted.
When Covid-19 turned into an epidemic, visitors were not allowed.
He died at the facility.
Given the earlier statement about him being on disability I'm going to guess that he was on Medi-Cal (Medicaid in CA). Under the rules for receiving the benefits there's an agreement for cost recovery. In other words if your cousin was in the facility for years, you will be stunned at the cost. My dad is a Medicaid patient in a facility in San Diego and the cost is $7+k per month. You can do some quick and dirty math on how much that recovery will be. Check with Key Cousin. Who was listed as the primary contact at the facility, Key Cousin?

Next step is to see how the property is titled. There are exceptions to the Medicaid Recovery in CA one of which is if the property was placed in a Trust. You can do a quick and dirty internet search going to the County of where the property is located and look under Grantor-Grantee Index. Try your cousins name and see what happens. Secondary is checking his parents names. Because of a privacy law you can't just research the property by address. You either have to physically visit the County recorder or order title info (paying a small fee). If you have a Title Company friend they might help.

You're a kind person to volunteer to help. Key cousin may be too intimidated to take on the process. It will be work and you're likely going to need to front the costs. Is there a bank acct anywhere? Medi-Cal patients typically are not allowed to have more than 2k in assets. Be sure to also check with the facility. My father's facility has small trust accts for its residents.

Letting the other cousins know what's going on is a good idea and I would definitely charge the estate.

I also found the Nolo book really helpful.

Best of luck.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by JoeRetire »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:01 pm I am considering taking over the process of going through probate.
In your locale, what does this mean? If someone passes intestate in my locale, I'm pretty sure the court decides who the becomes the representative for the deceased estate.
I have never done this before. I am asking for anyone’s input on this. Before I commit, I would like to get an Idea on what I am getting myself into. If you have input, can you give it with the prefix of no will or trust.
Expect a lot of time, running around, and talking with a lawyer. Expect to be expected to keep all actual and potential beneficiaries in the loop. Expect at last one of the potential beneficiaries to be upset with your work.
I did a rough estimate and I do not think I’ll be getting a lot of money out of this. I am retired and I can use a project. And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this. Better that letting the government take over the house for tax delinquency.
It's not clear that your involvement will change anything at all about the distribution of the estate. It depends solely on the laws of intestacy in your state, not your preferences.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by JoeRetire »

DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:16 pm My cousin with the Keys was indeed the closet to our now deceased cousin.
I am pretty tight with this key cousin. For a while, as a kid he came to live with my family.
He is the one that called me up. He expressed his apprehension about the whole daunting process.

He did the initial contact with a lawyer and the lawyer did state that the line of inheritance is now down to the two sets of cousins.
My cousin stated that he was thinking of letting the house go.
Your cousin needs to discuss that thought with the lawyer. Almost certainly he has no right to "let the house go" just because he has keys.

Whoever is appointed as representative by the court has a fiduciary responsibility to everything for the benefit of all the beneficiaries. Unless this cousin has been appointed, he has no right to make decisions like "letting the house go".
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by NotWhoYouThink »

I think it is helpful of you to volunteer to step in and tackle this. And your stepping in will make a positive difference, even if none of the potential beneficiaries sees a penny from the estate and it all goes to the State to repay care given.

If you don't step in what happens? The home continues to deteriorate and there is less to recover ? That doesn't sound good. Or maybe your tax dollars will pay for someone to do a slipshod job of something that you are willing to work hard on for free. That sounds worse.

Go in with the right expectations - you won't make any money and no one will thank you, but you will have done a good thing and learned a lot.

And let us know how it turns out, sounds like it could be a good story, and that people on this forum would be eager to hear (read) it.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by dodecahedron »

Raymond wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:43 pm
muddlehead wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:13 pm OP. What would make you think the cousin who has the keys will share, if there is any money in the first place to share, part of the 280k w/you?
Indeed.

If I were the cousin with the keys who used to check in on the deceased while he was alive, I would look very skeptically at this other cousin (the OP) who lives two hours away, and all of a sudden wants to "take over' the process of distributing the estate, even for the best of reasons.

In the OP's position, I would avoid this potential mess entirely.
When one of my husband's relatives died, the police immediately padlocked her house. Keys would not have done any good. (At least one trusted neighbor had a key entrusted to her in order to check on her.) She had two children living out-of-state who had keys but still needed to get permission/access from the police in order to search the padlocked house (under police supervision) in immediate aftermath to retrieve her personal papers (including the will), a dress for her to be buried in, and a framed photograph to display at the funeral. They had to spend a few hours sitting in the local police HQ waiting to be authenticated and approved for access and a suitable police escort to be available with time to provide supervised access to the home. (This was stressful. Death had been unexpected and the funeral was set for the next day, for religious reasons.)

After the funeral, the will was filed and successful application was made (with assistance of a local attorney) for one of the children to be appointed official executor (with the consent of their sibling--it was a 50/50 split), the police permanently removed the padlock and both children were able to use their keys to deal with the contents in collaborative harmony.

In a case with 40 heirs who do not communicate particularly well, the estate administrator would do well to have locks changed as soon as s/he is appointed administrator. In the meantime, I would see if it can be arranged for police to padlock the property until administrator is appointed.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by tadamsmar »

JoeRetire wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:22 pm
DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:16 pm My cousin with the Keys was indeed the closet to our now deceased cousin.
I am pretty tight with this key cousin. For a while, as a kid he came to live with my family.
He is the one that called me up. He expressed his apprehension about the whole daunting process.

He did the initial contact with a lawyer and the lawyer did state that the line of inheritance is now down to the two sets of cousins.
My cousin stated that he was thinking of letting the house go.
Your cousin needs to discuss that thought with the lawyer. Almost certainly he has no right to "let the house go" just because he has keys.

Whoever is appointed as representative by the court has a fiduciary responsibility to everything for the benefit of all the beneficiaries. Unless this cousin has been appointed, he has no right to make decisions like "letting the house go".
The cousin probably has no legal obligation to do anything (assuming he is neither the owner not the estate executor), except maybe surrender the keys to the presiding probate court if they ask for them.

The obligation to do something probably rests with the probate court. But maybe they need to be prodded. From what I have seen in my state NC, they sometimes do not take action unless someone asks or complains.

"When a person dies in intestacy, determining the distribution of the deceased's assets then becomes the responsibility of a probate court." https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/intestate.asp
Last edited by tadamsmar on Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by Dottie57 »

JoeRetire wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:22 pm
DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:16 pm My cousin with the Keys was indeed the closet to our now deceased cousin.
I am pretty tight with this key cousin. For a while, as a kid he came to live with my family.
He is the one that called me up. He expressed his apprehension about the whole daunting process.

He did the initial contact with a lawyer and the lawyer did state that the line of inheritance is now down to the two sets of cousins.
My cousin stated that he was thinking of letting the house go.
Your cousin needs to discuss that thought with the lawyer. Almost certainly he has no right to "let the house go" just because he has keys.

Whoever is appointed as representative by the court has a fiduciary responsibility to everything for the benefit of all the beneficiaries. Unless this cousin has been appointed, he has no right to make decisions like "letting the house go".
+1

I believe the probate court has to appoint an executor. If there is money or property to distribute, the court has to agree to any plan presented by executor.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by JoeRetire »

tadamsmar wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:12 pm
JoeRetire wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:22 pm
DrGrnTum wrote: Sat Aug 22, 2020 10:16 pm My cousin with the Keys was indeed the closet to our now deceased cousin.
I am pretty tight with this key cousin. For a while, as a kid he came to live with my family.
He is the one that called me up. He expressed his apprehension about the whole daunting process.

He did the initial contact with a lawyer and the lawyer did state that the line of inheritance is now down to the two sets of cousins.
My cousin stated that he was thinking of letting the house go.
Your cousin needs to discuss that thought with the lawyer. Almost certainly he has no right to "let the house go" just because he has keys.

Whoever is appointed as representative by the court has a fiduciary responsibility to everything for the benefit of all the beneficiaries. Unless this cousin has been appointed, he has no right to make decisions like "letting the house go".
The cousin probably has no legal obligation to do anything (assuming he is neither the owner not the estate executor), except maybe surrender the keys to the presiding probate court if they ask for them.
Not only "no legal obligation to do anything", almost certainly "no legal right to do anything" unless appointed as the estate's representative by the court.
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DrGrnTum
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by DrGrnTum »

by JoeRetire » Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:22 pm
Your cousin needs to discuss that thought with the lawyer. Almost certainly he has no right to "let the house go" just because he has keys.

Whoever is appointed as representative by the court has a fiduciary responsibility to everything for the benefit of all the beneficiaries. Unless this cousin has been appointed, he has no right to make decisions like "letting the house go".

I am a little perplexed on your assumptions.
You are saying: "Almost certainly he has no right to "let the house go" just because he has keys."

My cousin just has the keys nothing else.

If we all decided to do nothing, never talk to a lawyer and we let the house sit eventually some agency would invariably lay claim to the house.
The only thing that comes to mind is that the county will assume possession of the property for tax delinquency.

In this respect my cousin is just letting the house go.
Do you know of any documented liability my cousin is up against simply for having the keys?

If my cousin has the keys and never sets foot in the house, I myself do not see an issue.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by tadamsmar »

If I were you and I thought I was an heir and that I might inherit something, I would do one of the following:

1. Volunteer to be the administrator.
2. Recruit someone to be the administrator, if thought that was best.
3. Ask the presiding probate court to get on with it and choose an executor.

If you have analysis paralysis, then just do #3. I would contact the clerk of court and ask them to proceed with probate. I am pretty sure that an heir can petition the court to proceed with probate. The court will probably appoint a lawyer and the costs to the estate would might be higher than if you did the job.
And I think others could use whatever money that may come out of this.
I am dubious of the idea that being an estate administrator is charity work.

My experience with these matters is that it is almost 100% a business financial process governed by regulations. I find that relatives are always uncomfortable with this. They want it to be more about family even if that not fully fair and in conformance with regulations. You know, more like a mafia operation.
Last edited by tadamsmar on Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Cousin died He did not leave a will

Post by dodecahedron »

tadamsmar wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:40 pm If I were you and I thought I was an heir and that I might inherit something, I would do one of the following:

1. Volunteer to be the executor.
2. Recruit someone to be the executor, if thought that was best.
3. Ask the presiding probate court to get on with it and choose an executor.

If you have analysis paralysis, then just do #3. I would contact the clerk of court and ask them to proceed with probate. I am pretty sure that an heir can petition the court to proceed with probate.
A terminology confusion is starting to really bother me.

If there is no valid will, as appears to be the case here, there will be no "executor."

An executor is a person officially appointed to be responsible for executing a will. That may or may not be the person designated as executor in the decedent's will, for a variety of reasons. The designated executor in the will may be unable or unwilling to perform due to death, disability, logistical issues, etc. If there is a valid will but the executor(s) named in the will is/are unable or unwilling to perform the duties of an executor, the court will appoint an executor to execute the will.

By contrast, if and when the court becomes satisfied that no valid will exists, they will declare that the deceased died intestate and appoint an *administrator* of the estate not an executor. There is a technical difference between those two terms.
Last edited by dodecahedron on Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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