October 2010 Archives
Dear Liza: My sister recently died, and left no will behind. My brother and I survive her. She had no children. What happens now? Your sister died without a will, as many people do. This is called dying 'intestate'--fancy lawyer talk for dying without a will. Actually, some surveys show that a majority of people die without a will! What happens is that her estate goes to her immediate family, but state law determines who gets what. In California, where I live, if she had no spouse and no children, her estate would go first to her parents, if they survived her, and if not, to her brothers and sisters. But you need to check the rules in your state. You will also need to open a probate proceeding and petition to be named your sister's administrator or personal representative (the person with legal authority to settle the estate).
Dear Liza: My father is 80, and in failing health. I don't know what I should do to be able to take care of him if he gets sicker. You need to get your father to sign a Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management and an Advance Health Care Directive. Don't put this off. These documents make it possible for you to take care of your Dad if he can't take care of things himself.