For executors and heirs

We can help you manage a loved one's estate such as your parents or spouse.
Characters Remaining: 600

Rocket Lawyer On Call® Attorney

Manage a loved one's estate FAQs

Many laws and documents govern how you can manage a loved one's estate. Documents you may need to care for another person's estate include Power of Attorneys, Wills, Health Care Power of Attorneys, and more.

Do all Wills have to go through probate?

Most, but not all, Wills must go through the probate process. Probate is the process where the courts will decide the validity of a Will. If the Will is determined to be valid, an administrator will be appointed, debts will be settled, assets will be inventoried and real estate appraised. Then assets will be distributed. On average, probate takes six to nine months if the Will is not challenged.

Properties that may not have to go through the probate process

  • Property held jointly. In most cases, the property will go to the remaining owner.
  • Life insurance or assets with designated beneficiaries. Life insurance policies and other assets often have specifically named beneficiaries that may automatically receive their payout.
  • Property left in a Trust. Property left in a Trust is often available immediately.
  • Small estates. Sometimes state laws provide an expedited process for small estates.

How do I get a Power of Attorney for elderly parents?

If your parent is still mentally alert, it is simple to make a Power of Attorney (POA) document allowing you or another appointed agent manage their finances. If their health is already failing, it may be more difficult to obtain a POA.

Getting a POA for healthy parents

Obtaining a POA while your parents are healthy is hassle-free. You can simply log in to your Rocket Lawyer account and make a POA document. You can create a POA that begins immediately or make it a "Springing POA" which "spring" into effect when a certain situation is met, such as an illness. Your state may have unique signing requirements that you'll need to follow. When you finish making the document the Rocket Lawyer app will tell you who needs to sign it to make it valid in your state.

Getting a POA for unhealthy parents

If your parent is incapacitated or not mentally healthy enough to sign a POA, you need to petition the courts to obtain adult guardianship of your parent. As a "guardian" you will be able to take care of your parent's health and financial matters. Your local clerk's office should be able to tell you how to start the proceedings.

What happens if I die without a Will?

If you die without a Will, it is called dying "intestate." Intestate simply means a person who has died without a Will. If you die without a Will, state laws will dictate how your assets will be distributed; however, dying without a Will does not change beneficiaries named in insurance policies. Other assets such as bank accounts, securities, real estate, vehicles and such will be distributed according to state laws. If you own real estate in another state, that state will dictate how that property will be distributed. If you have a lot of assets or family heirlooms that you want to be distributed to specific people, write a Will and make sure your family has access to it should you pass.

What if my parent dies without a Will?

How property will be distributed is dictated by the state and the courts. In some cases, the court may appoint someone to be the executor or trustee of the estate. The courts usually pick a close relative such as a spouse, child or sibling. The first thing that happens is that the executor must settle the deceased person's debt, including funeral expenses and taxes. After debts are settled, the remaining assets can be distributed to who the court considered "rightful heirs."