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Intestate Death
Old 01-08-2011, 09:55 PM   #1
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Intestate Death

My beloved sister passed away this past week in California. Her only child - a son nearly 50 years old - and the only person who had the legal authority to do so, refused to bury her. After several very difficult days and numerous exhortations and pressure from both the authorities and others, he finally signed the paper giving me the right to the disposition of her remains. Now I don't know how to deal with her affairs. She did not have a will. She was disabled and had only a 15 year old car, a very small pension, a checking account, and disability/social security. Her son is the one who has the legal right to file a probate type document but in our last conversation he told me he would not do anything, giving excuses such as he lives too far away (three hours), and that he doesn't know why he was even notified. Does anyone have any idea of how I can finalize my sister's life.
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Old 01-08-2011, 09:58 PM   #2
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I am really sorry for your loss, and also that you find yourself in such a painful position. I have no suggestions, but likely there are others on this board who can be helpful to you.

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Old 01-08-2011, 10:59 PM   #3
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Skisalot, I am sorry to hear about your sister. I would think first that the bank, the pension fund, and the Social Security Administration need to be notified of her death. Given the simplicity of her finances, maybe that's all that needs to be done. Did your sister have any debts? I think the laws about who inherits from an intestate person vary from state to state, but unless your nephew's father is still living I don't know who else could be your sister's heir. If the heir does nothing I suppose the contents of the checking account would eventually go to the state as unclaimed property. I don't know what would happen to the car if your nephew (assuming he now owns it) lets the registration expire. A lawyer (I'm not one) would be the person to ask to find out for sure.
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Old 01-09-2011, 08:20 AM   #4
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Skisalot, I am sorry to hear about your sister. I would think first that the bank, the pension fund, and the Social Security Administration need to be notified of her death. Given the simplicity of her finances, maybe that's all that needs to be done. Did your sister have any debts? I think the laws about who inherits from an intestate person vary from state to state, but unless your nephew's father is still living I don't know who else could be your sister's heir. If the heir does nothing I suppose the contents of the checking account would eventually go to the state as unclaimed property. I don't know what would happen to the car if your nephew (assuming he now owns it) lets the registration expire. A lawyer (I'm not one) would be the person to ask to find out for sure.

First, sorry for your loss...


+1 on this post...


I think that you have done all that you need to do... get her buried... as far as everything else, I would bet that it all goes to her child as long as she is not married... if he does not want to do anything, why should you It is not like you would get anything... and you would not be helping your sister.. and with the attitude of your nephew I would not be going out of my way to help him...

So, mourn your loss and move on.... the state will take care of everything else....
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Old 01-09-2011, 08:32 AM   #5
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Sorry for your loss.

I am sure there is some sort of background story there...

It sounds like you have the responsibility to see about getting her buried.

Regarding the rest of it, here estate, probate, etc.... she must have nothing or her son would be on dealing with it. That may be the reason he was refusing to deal with the burial. If it were me... I would not get myself involved with the estate or the settlement of it.

Find a funeral home in the area and make contact with them to discuss the problem. I am sure they will have some suggestions.
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:30 AM   #6
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SkisALot,
Sorry for your loss.
From what you mentioned, your sister doesn't have a lot of assets. In IL and seems CA allows this also, there's a small estate affadavit for estates under 100k that can be used to close out bank accounts, etc. You'll need the death certificate too. This value is calculated using the gross value of all assets, so be careful on this point, i.e., say a house is valued at $400k, but there's $380k loan, the value is still $400k.

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm a indep. admin for an estate in probate but the gross value was over $100k, but the net value wasn't (about $20k). I had to use a lawyer and what a nightmare it has been. if you were really close to your sister and feel obligated to do this, this is the most economical way without using a lawyer. Do a search on "small estate affadavit California", there's a lot of info that can help you. Just keep in mind that any bank should be able to give you a copy of this document. As far as the pension and similiar assets, you'll want to check for beneficiary designations since that's the primary allocation, otherwise, check the CA rules on intestate distributions, usually spouse and children would be first in line, etc.
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:45 AM   #7
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Very sad.

I assume she was renting an apartment?

There are a number of possibilities. You might just want to walk away, knowing you did what you needed to do to see that she was buried. Some states/counties have public administrators that administer an estate is there is no one else. Where there is such a system the public administrator may get notified by the medical examiner or some other authority. The estate may or may not be the type that the public administrator would take on. Here is a link on California public administrators: Treasurer and Tax Collector - Public Administrator

The procedure mentioned by Dimsumkid (transfer of assets by affidavit) may be available for the heirs to follow but the son is the heir and he seems disinclined. You are likely not the heir so I doubt that you can follow that procedure. http://calestateplanning.blogspot.co...robate-in.html

Or, you could apply to be personal representative. If the son refuses to act you may be eligible to be personal representative. You would liquidate the assets and pay the bills, such as the bill for the burial. It may be too much work and too expensive for you to bother. Plus, the only heir, the son, is a potential problem. You may not want to take on what likely will be a thankless job.

Others here have given good suggestions.

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Old 01-09-2011, 10:29 AM   #8
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I am sorry for your loss and the situation you are going thru.
Good advice from Dimsumkid. If she died without a will, as a relative you are entitled to some portion of her assets...even if it is a small portion. My understanding is that any relative can file a claim if one dies without a will.
There should be a Commissioner of Accounts (who is a lawyer) associated with the court system in the jurisdiction she passed away in. A phone call to the courts to determine who this is...and a phone call to him or her might help answer some of your questions. That is where I would start.
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:35 AM   #9
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I am sorry for your loss and the situation you are going thru.
Good advice from Dimsumkid. If she died without a will, as a relative you are entitled to some portion of her assets...even if it is a small portion. My understanding is that any relative can file a claim if one dies without a will.
There should be a Commissioner of Accounts (who is a lawyer) associated with the court system in the jurisdiction she passed away in. A phone call to the courts to determine who this is...and a phone call to him or her might help answer some of your questions. That is where I would start.
The OP is in California and it looks like if a person dies without a will in California and has no spouse the kids inherit. The OP would only inherit if there were no kids. (Or, I suppose, if the kids disclaimed any inheritance). Dying Without a Will (in plain English) http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/di...file=6400-6414 (in legalize). But I am not a California lawyer and only checked the web for this information.
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Old 01-09-2011, 10:44 AM   #10
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That's why a call to the courts and the Commissoner of Accounts or equivalent person...might help answer some questions. Such as: The son will probably have to fill out some paper work and what happens if he doesn't? Does it mean he has effectively disclaimed it? etc..etc. Laws have so many subtext to them...than I would not like to assume their meaning on the surface.
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Old 01-09-2011, 11:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Martha View Post
The OP is in California and it looks like if a person dies without a will in California and has no spouse the kids inherit. The OP would only inherit if there were no kids. (Or, I suppose, if the kids disclaimed any inheritance). Dying Without a Will (in plain English) CA Codes (prob:6400-6414) (in legalize). But I am not a California lawyer and only checked the web for this information.

Well... Martha beat me to this.... after my last post I thought about it and said... 'so, the kids does not want anything..... get that in writing'...

Now that he has disclaimed any and all assets... they go to the next level (in Texas it is parents)... I assume your parents are already gone.. then it is siblings... so are there other siblings involved If not, then it goes to you...

Read the links provided and see if you can get this done IF the son will sign something... if he does not sign, my last post still stands... you did what you needed to do and walk away...
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Old 01-09-2011, 12:08 PM   #12
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To more or less reiterate what I said above, if the OP takes any kind of action without the nephew's clear consent there is a risk he could bitch about it later. If I were the OP, based solely on the few facts given which may be only part of the story, I would be inclined to walk away and do no more or at most check and see if there is some public administrator who could wind things up and maybe repay me for the burial expenses I incurred. It is sad and the OP's situation is filled with land mines.

Now maybe the OP does have a great relationship with her nephew and he will sign whatever she wants or needs him to sign, but based solely on the difficulties surrounding the burial, I question that. I also question what is the point of all the aggravation it would entail.

Sheehs1, fwiw, although I am not a California lawyer it is unlikely that failure to act results in a disclaimer. Disclaimers typically have to be in writing and meet various other requirements of both state and federal law. For example, if someone owed a bunch of income taxes to the feds they cannot avoid having an inheritance go to pay the taxes by doing a disclaimer. Because of all sorts of potential funny business there are a bunch of rules about disclaimers.
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Old 01-09-2011, 12:20 PM   #13
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I can add this about getting consent that Martha mentioned. In my case, using a lawyer, I had to get consent from all heirs to become the Independent Admin. Knowing I had problem family members, they all agreed to this, then used it to instigate claims that I mismanaged and stole from the estate, so it's a very slippey slope even with everyone's consent. The ones that filed the complaints are they only ones that felt they should get more than what they should've gotten. I can tell you one wanted everything and another wanted nothing at all...until there was a payout, then wanted more.

Best thing in this situation is to offer advice only, unless you made a promise to your sister to follow through on this.
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:01 PM   #14
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Thanks to all of you for the suggestions and the time and thought you spent giving them. If there were any more facts to this story I would give them, but fact is, there aren't. Obviously my sister and nephew had a strained relationship, but he turned away years ago from every family member without telling why. We have all kept in touch with him, knowing he accepted it grudgingly but never did I consider this degree of disinfranchisement.
At this point I'm feeling so overwhelmed that I don't know what course I'll take. DH thinks I've done what was moral and motivated by love and that I should walk away from the rest. My sister shared an apartment with another older woman (and no they were not a "couple" ), and I'm bothered by the fact that my sister's car is parked outside and her roommate feels uncomfortable with that. I don't want to cause this good woman any more grief than we all already have. Maybe I can think better tomorrow.
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