Every day people in the U.S. pass away without any form of estate plan. Surveys show that approximately half of Americans do not even have a will when they pass away.
When one of those decedents is a close relative of yours, you might be the person the family thinks should be in charge of handling everything and making sure the decedent’s assets are distributed to other family members.
However, that is not a simple process, as the Napa Valley Register discussed in "Mom died with no will. Now what?"
You cannot just start handing property out to other people. This is especially true if the property in question is something like real estate or a car. You need the necessary legal authority to transfer those assets.
For that authority you will need to go to probate court and ask a judge to appoint you as the personal representative of the estate. Once you secure that designation, you have the legal authority to determine what assets comprise the decedent’s estate and then distribute them.
However, you cannot distribute assets anyway you wish. Your state's laws of intestate succession will determine to whom the assets should be distributed.
That sounds complicated and it is. The first step you should take if you find yourself in this position, is to hire an estate attorney who can assist you.
Reference: Napa Valley Register (Feb. 1, 2018) "Mom died with no will. Now what?"