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What happens to a loved one’s assets after they pass away?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Wills And Trusts |

Losing a loved one can be devastating. It can even be more stressful when family members are left to deal with the deceased family member’s estate and property while dealing with their grief and pain. However, knowing some basics of how the process works can help people navigate this complicated time more easily. 

If the decedent left a will

Suppose the decedent (person who died) prepared a will. In that case, their estate will typically go through probate, unless the person placed assets in trusts to bypass probate.  

The court will authorize the executor or the personal representative to step in and manage the decedent’s estate. The executor has numerous responsibilities, including:  

  • Inventorying the decedent’s assets 
  • Gathering critical legal documents 
  • Notifying beneficiaries 
  • Settling debts 
  • Filing taxes 
  • Distributing assets according to the will 

A person’s will can also provide direction regarding final arrangements and burial wishes. 

What if there is no will present?

If there is no will available, the courts and court-appointed parties will make decisions in accordance with state laws. In Virginia, the assets of any family member will go to their closest relatives under the state intestate succession laws. The intestate law indicates that immediate family members are the first line of succession, meaning the spouse and decedent’s descendants. The succession goes:  

  • Surviving spouse (shared with children, if there are any) 
  • Children (if there is no surviving spouse) 
  • Parents (if there are no children) 
  • Siblings and their descendants (if there are no living parents) 
  • Divided between paternal and maternal blood relatives (if there are no siblings) 

This kind of succession is used by default in Virginia, and a lot of issues can complicate it. For instance, things like divorce and remarriage can affect this succession.  

Again, the passing of a relative can be traumatic and overwhelming. Knowing what will happen to their property can help family and other loved ones ease the stress and make it easier to get through this difficult time.