Inheritance Law

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What You Need to Know About Inheritance Law In Your State

Welcome to the fastest and easiest way to find out about Inheritance Law in your state. Whether you’re:

This site will provide you with tips and tools and checklists that you can use in your state to make the probate process as quick and affordable as possible. 


With just a few forms, you can save yourself an and your loved ones a lot of hassle and thousands of dollars of needless fees when the time comes to have your property transferred after your death.

If you’re someone who is handling an estate of someone who just died, keep reading. You’ll find lots of tools for executors on how to handle estates when someone passes away, including:

Five things to keep in mind:

1. Probate law is local and depends on the county where the person died or owned property

Start by entering the zip code or at least select the state and county of the person who died, to learn about the probate law and probate court procedure for that state and county.

2. Most property never goes probate process or your will

You may not realize that if your bank accounts or other accounts have a named beneficiary on file with the financial institution, that account will never pass through your will and will bypass the probate process. 

Many estates can avoid probate altogether, either because they're small enough to fall under a state's small estates limit, because the assets will go to named beneficiaries because they are held as pay-on-death or  joint tenancy accounts, or in retirement accounts with a named beneficiary or life insurance, or the assets were held in a living trust.

Property That Avoids Probate in Your State

If you are a beneficiary or a joint owner "with right of survivorship" (WROS), you can typically claim the asset by dealing with the financial institution directly and provide them with a death certificate and proof of your identity as a beneficiary.

State Probate Law & Procedure

Even if the deceased persons property did not have a beneficiary designation, there may be "simplified probate" procedures or "small estate affidavit" procedures in your state for transferring certain kinds of property at death, which can avoid the cost and time of a full-blown court-supervised probate proceeding.

  • How Probate Works in Your State: Get an overview of how probate works, and whether your estate may be able to bypass the procedure entirely.
    • Small Estate Procedures in Your State: Many states allow simplified procedures for small estates and certain kinds of property which can be transferred by a simple affidavit procedure if the value of the estate falls under a certain limit.
  • Probate Court Finder: Get details about your county probate court. (Be sure you are looking the county or zip code where the deceased person owned property or lived, which may or may not be the county where YOU live.)
    • Small Estate Procedures: Whether your state's small estate procedure will allow you to avoid probate or use
    • Property Transfer Affidavits: Most states have quick procedures for transferring property valued less than a certain amount, if all the heirs agree. 



3. Even if there's no will, someone needs to start the probate process when someone dies

If there is property that did not have a pay-on-death designation, someone needs to start the probate process. If you were named the executor in the will, you are that person.

If there is no will, or no executor was named in the will, the court will appoint someone to be responsible for filing the necessary documents to complete the process of paying debts and taxes and funeral expenses from the estate and distributing property to beneficiaries.

If you are a beneficiary of a small estate, you may be able to claim your inheritance with a simple affidavit. (If there is no will,  beneficiaries are determined by the "intestate succession" laws in the state where the person is a resident.) 

Wills & Intestacy

  • Wills: What are they? Do I need one? What if someone dies without one?
  • No Will? Who Inherits if a Spouse or Parent Dies Without a Will in your state
  • Living Trusts: Property held by a living trust does not pass through probate, but only if property ownership was correctly transferred to the living trust once it was set up

4. You have to pay creditors and taxes before you can inherit assets

  • You always have to pay taxes before any other creditors can get paid. 
  • Debts that are secured by property, like mortages, are called secured debts, because if someone doesn't pay the loan, the lender can take the property. If you inherit a house, you also inherit the mortgage.
  • Unsecured debts, like credit cards, don't work that way -- as a beneficiary you are not responsible for that debt,
  • But the estate needs to pay all known creditors before distributing property to beneficiaries and heirs. Otherwise, a creditor can come calling to get paid back from estate assets, even after they've been distributed.

Paying Debts

  • Which debts need to be paid after someone has died? When someone dies, their bills keep coming due. Learn which ones to pay and which ones you can legally walk away from.
  • Secured Debts:
    • Mortgage Payments:  Mortgage payments are still due on a house after someone dies. Here's how to pay the bills.
    • Car or Boat Payments: If there are other secured loans, those still must be paid, or the property must be surrendered.
  • Unsecured Debts: Unsecured debts like credit card debt die with the debtor. Their personal liability is not passed on to their heirs.

5. Most estates do not need to file an estate tax return, but there are other kinds of year-end taxes to be paid when someone dies

Unless an estate is worth more than $13,610,000, it will not need to file a Federal estate tax return.

Death & Taxes



Select Your State

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