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Steps to take when parents didn't leave a will

Despite all the information available to them, some seniors neglect to write a will. It could be because they expect to live a lot longer or because they are so busy that it slips their minds. Whatever their reason for not putting their wishes in writing, there are some things a surviving child in Georgia could do to make sure their parent's assets are passed to the appropriate heirs.

The first thing an adult child should do is search for a will. Parents may not share everything with their children, so even though they said they didn't have a will, they could have an old one they forgot about. Survivors should search their parent's home and office. It's possible they've spoken to an attorney or financial adviser and have a business card tucked inside a drawer. If there is definitely no will, a survivor should start gathering financial documents because they'll need them for probate.

Assets that have beneficiary designations, such as bank accounts, 401(k) accounts, IRAs and life insurance policies, do not need to go through probate to be transferred. Other assets may avoid probate as well if they are owned jointly or have a payable on death listed. Adult children whose parent owned personal property in their own name should talk to an attorney with experience in probate law for guidance on how to deal with it.

A lawyer who focuses on estate administration and probate may guide a client through the process of settling their parent's estate. Gathering all of the parent's financial documents ahead of the first meeting with a lawyer might help a client save time on the probate process. After reviewing all of the documents, a lawyer may advise a client whether probate is necessary and what they can expect as they work to settle the estate and transfer their parent's assets to heirs.

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