If a relative died without leaving a will stating how his property is to be distributed, state laws of intestate succession will determine the distribution. Even though the laws are in place, a family member will have to take the initiative to start the process of transferring assets from the deceased’s estate to those entitled to the property under state law. This may be accomplished in different ways depending on the length of time the relative has been deceased and whether all heirs agree to the distribution of the property.
Petition the probate court for administration of an intestate estate if you qualify under state law to do so. State law often requires that an administrator be a resident of the state where the administration will occur. Administration is a way of distributing assets and paying debts of a deceased who dies without a will. A title company or attorney may require administration before insuring title to the property upon a sale, or the heirs may force an administration if they cannot agree on how the property should be distributed. Your petition for administration will name all heirs or lineal descendants of the deceased, their ages and their addresses. If it has been several years since the decedent died and all heirs agree, a title company or attorney may accept two or more affidavits from knowledgeable disinterested parties in lieu of an administration action to prove heirship. These heirship affidavits will state that the deceased died intestate and name all the heirs of the deceased.
Petition the court to authorize you, as administrator, to execute a deed to the heirs in the percentage interest to which they are entitled under state law in the event an administration of the estate was filed. Provided there are no liens on the property or claims against the estate that would prevent such an action, the court may grant the petition by court order. If there is disagreement among the heirs, any one of them entitled to a share of the property may petition the court for its sale and a division of the proceeds. If the petitioner has found a buyer for the property, the court may grant the petition thereby forcing the sale. If there are debts against the estate and the property is the only asset, a creditor may petition the court to sell for payment of debts.
Instruct your attorney to prepare the administrator’s deed to convey the property pursuant to the judge’s order. If no administration action has been filed, then there may be no need for a deed from any of the heirs until such time as the property is to be conveyed either to a third party or to one or more of the relatives who may be purchasing from the others. If an administration is required, then the heirship affidavits will need to be placed of record along with the deed conveying the property out of the heirs.
Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.