What happens if my mom has no will, and does she actually legally need to have one?

My mother seems to think that just because she told someone what to do with her property after her death means she doesnt need a will. Is this true or does she actually legally need one? and if she doesnt have one, do I, being her only child, receive her property?

Asked on May 8, 2016 under Estate Planning, North Dakota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) Yes, you need a will if you want to have any control over who gets the property, and a will must meet the legal and formal requirements for a will (e.g. written, signed, properly witnesssed and executed). Telling someone what to do with property has no legal effect.
2) Without a will, the property will pass via intestate succession, or the rules for who gets what when there is no will.  In your state, if you are the only child, it should all come to you, less any expenses or debts of her estate (e.g. her last medical expenses, which the medical care provider may seek from the estate; costs of funeral), and subject to lender can foreclose on or repossess property which secures debts (typically financed cars or real estate with mortgages).

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