Weekends By Appointment Only

Contact Us Today: 317-468-2355

Toll-Free: 866-958-6354

Photo of the Allen Wellman Harvey Keyes Cooley, LLP logo on the office building name board

Our Experience Matters

Since 1918, our full-service law firm has been getting results for our clients. We can do the same for you.

What to do when a loved one passes away without an estate plan

Losing a loved one is a monumental challenge, and dealing with their financial affairs can add additional stress. It may not be clear what steps to take in managing a loved one’s estate, especially if they did not leave a will to make their wishes known.

In Indiana, some laws govern the allocation and distribution of assets when someone passes away without an estate plan. Without clear instructions from the deceased, it falls upon family members and the legal system to determine what happens to their belongings and property.

Locating assets

The first step after the passing of a loved one is to locate their assets. This may include bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, investments and personal belongings. Searching through documents such as bank statements, deeds and insurance policies can help identify these assets.

Contacting beneficiaries

It is necessary to inform all beneficiaries about the situation regarding the deceased and their estate. Beneficiaries are individuals named by the deceased to inherit specific assets. Providing them with clear information about the assets and the next steps can help manage expectations and avoid misunderstandings.

Probate process

In Indiana, when someone dies without a will or trust, their estate typically goes through the probate process. Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving any outstanding debts, and distributing assets to heirs. The court appoints an executor or personal representative to oversee this process.

Distribution of assets

During probate, the court will determine how to distribute the assets according to Indiana’s intestacy laws. These laws provide a hierarchy of beneficiaries based on their relationship to the deceased. For example, spouses, children, parents and siblings may have priority in receiving assets.

Debts and taxes

Part of the probate process involves settling any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased. This may include credit card bills, mortgages and income taxes. Assets from the estate will contribute to paying off these obligations before distribution to beneficiaries.

Writing a will is an important part of estate planning that eases the burden on the loved ones left behind. If your family member did not establish a detailed estate plan, though, you can still navigate the process by following the available guidelines and best practices.