If a person dies without a will, the probate court appoints a personal representative to receive claims against the estate, pay creditors, and then distribute the remaining property in accordance with the laws of the state.
The major difference between dying with or without a will is that without a valid will an estate is distributed to its beneficiaries in accordance with the distribution plan established by state law, rather than in accordance with the instructions provided by the decedent in his/her will.
How can I find out if there was a will?
The first place to check is with the probate court in the county where the deceased lived. In almost every case the will, if filed, will be available to the public. Also check the decedent’s safe deposit box, if there is one. The fact that a person died—even if he or she owned substantial assets—does not mean that he or she actually had a will, or that the will was duly filed with the court.
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