Case Study: Navigating Probate Without a Will

When a loved one passes away, it can be a difficult and overwhelming time for their family and loved ones. One of the many tasks that must be addressed is the distribution of their assets, which can be particularly complex if the decedent did not leave behind a will. This is known as probate, and it can be a long and confusing process for those involved.

In this blog post, we will discuss a specific case of a deceased individual who passed away without leaving a will and the issues that arose for their family in the probate process. This case highlights the importance of having a will in place, as well as the potential challenges that can arise when a will is not present.

Facts & Procedural History

The client in this case is the sister of the decedent, who passed away in 2019. The decedent did not leave behind a will, leaving her family and loved ones to navigate the probate process without clear direction on how to distribute her assets. One of the major assets in question was her house, which was in the possession of her granddaughter, the client’s niece, at the time of her death.

Unfortunately, the niece passed away four months after the deceased sister, leaving the house in a state of uncertainty. To make matters worse, the niece had fallen behind on property taxes, and the family was facing the possibility of the state taking possession of the house to recoup the delinquent taxes.

The client in this case had been taking care of her deceased sister and intervened to make a payment plan to stop the delinquent taxes. However, the client is now facing a large payment due next month and is unsure of how to proceed.

Issues that Arise in the Absence of a Will

Possession of the House

One of the major issues in this case is the potential for the deceased sister’s son to claim possession of the house. The son has not been involved in his mother’s life for over 20 years and did not attend her funeral. Additionally, the deceased sister had written a letter prior to her death disowning him due to his drug addiction and threat to her life.

However, as the deceased sister’s only living child, the son may still have a legal claim to the house under state laws of inheritance. This is where the lack of a will becomes a major problem for the family, as there is no clear direction on how the deceased sister wanted her assets to be distributed.

Delinquent Taxes

Another issue in this case is the delinquent taxes on the property. If the taxes are not paid, the state may take possession of the house and sell it to recoup the taxes. This could result in the loss of the house for the entire family, including the grandchildren.

Advice for the Client

As probate attorneys, we would advise the client to seek legal assistance in understanding the legal process and potential costs of probating the deceased sister’s estate, as well as the likelihood of gaining possession of the house or recovering any money spent on taxes if the son does try to claim possession. Additionally, we may work with a tax professional to address the delinquent taxes on the property and create a plan to pay them off.

We would also advise investigating the whereabouts of the son to determine if he is deceased or alive, and if he does have any children as well. This will help to understand the potential legal challenges that may arise with regards to the inheritance of the house.

It is important to note that probating an estate without a will can be a long and costly process. The court will need to declare all of the deceased sister’s heirs, and signatures from all parties may be required in order to gain possession of the house. Additionally, the client would still have to deal with the potential claim from the son, who may demand a large sum of money for his share of the house.

In this case, the client may be putting a significant amount of money at risk for a very little chance of actually succeeding in gaining possession of the house. This highlights the importance of having a will in place, as it can save family members from a potentially costly and confusing probate process.

The Takeaway

In conclusion, this case serves as a reminder of the importance of having a will in place and the potential challenges that can arise without one. Probating an estate without a will can be a long and costly process, and it is important to seek legal assistance to understand the legal process and potential costs. Additionally, it is important to investigate the whereabouts of any potential heirs and understand the potential legal challenges that may arise with regards to inheritance. By having a will in place and seeking legal assistance, families can alleviate some of the stress and confusion that can come with the probate process.

Do you need help with a probate matter in Austin or the surrounding area?  We are Austin probate attorneys.  We help clients navigate the probate process.   Call today for a free confidential consultation, 512-273-7444.

Our Austin Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with intestate cases. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.


The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.

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