What to do if a loved one dies without leaving a will
If someone dies without leaving a will, it usually causes a great deal of panic among those left behind. The immediate fear is that SARS is going to come along and take all of the deceased’s assets for the state coffers. Fortunately, this does not happen. But when someone dies without a will, those who are left behind are burdened with many decisions that the deceased would have made in a will.
It is common for a will to leave instructions as to whether you should be buried or cremated and what type of funeral or memorial service must be held (if any). If there is no will, the family must make these decisions. This may cause conflict, as people may have different ideas about what the deceased would have wanted.
The intestate heirs must decide who will be appointed as the executor. If there are children who have been left without a guardian, the family members who are left must decide between themselves who will look after the children. Deciding what will be sold and what will be kept and distributed as well as dividing up the deceased’s personal effects must be done by the intestate heirs.
There is a tremendous amount of potential for uncertainty, conflict and recriminations when those who are left have to take these responsibilities and make these decisions.
If someone close to you dies without a will, the best thing to do is to go to a professional to help you and those around you sort things out. And that person should not only be good at winding up estates. He or she should also be a good mediator who can manage any differences and conflict that may arise.