Our “Ask a Question” mailbag, addresses the issue of what if you die without a Will.
“My Mom died without a Will as a widow in Philadelphia. How do I sell her home?”
If you Die Without a Will, you Die “Intestate.”
This question has come up with increasing frequency due to Philadelphia’s improving real estate market. The first step is to examine your mother’s deed. Did she hold title to the property? Obtain a copy of the deed for a nominal fee from the Records Department in City Hall. Or, you can us obtain a copy and we can review its terms with you.
If your mom owned the property, then someone must gain authority to sell the home. When there is no Will, authority to collect and dispose of a deceased person’s assets requires obtaining Letters of Administration. Your mother died a resident of Philadelphia. Therefore, the Register of Wills in Philadelphia County will hear the Petition for Letters of Administration.
If You Die Without a Will, The State Determines Your Administrator.
The Pennsylvania Decedents, Estates, and Fiduciary Code lists who shall be entitled to serve and in what order. In your case, your mother’s children are the first group designated to serve as Administrator. If you are an only child, barring anything unusual, you would have the first right to serve. If mom had other children, then you may need them to renounce their right to serve. Should they not renounce, then hope they do not oppose your Petition. Should they oppose your Petition to serve as Administrator, a hearing is necessary.
If the Siblings Can’t Agree, A Hearing Will be Necessary.
After a hearing at the Register of Wills office on your Petition, the Register will decide to whom to grant Letters of Administration. If you are appointed Administrator, you will then have the authority to sell the home. But, you will also have the responsibility to properly probate your mom’s estate. This includes filing the inheritance tax return, paying her outstanding bills, filing her final income tax return and more. You will also want a full release from your siblings. We regularly represent Administrators and would be happy to serve as your attorney. Our job would be to make the process as easy as possible and to keep you out of trouble.
In conclusion, I would be happy to answer your questions. If you have any other questions about what happens when someone dies without a will in Philadelphia, PA, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. We try to make the process painless!
Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation It’s All We Do!
Peter Klenk, Esq., LL.M.