How to deal with a dead relatives property
October 19, 2011 11:09 AM   Subscribe

My estranged uncle died and we're trying to figure out how to go about getting into his home and collecting/transferring property. The catch: multiple legal name changes and several aliases.

My uncle recently died. He owned his home. When he died he did not have any keys with him. We haven't been able to find any hidden keys around his house.
Also, he legally changed his name at least once, and used several aliases before and after the legal changes. We don't know yet if firearm or vehicle registrations were done with a legal name or not.
He did not have a will.
He was in Nevada, we are in California.
1. How do we get into his home? Without kicking in a door.
2. How do we deal with registration on motor vehicles?
3. What do we do with guns? Assume that some are legal to own and some are not, and that we would like to take possession of the legal ones.

Thanks in advance.
posted by gally99 to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get a death certificate and show it to anyone that you need something from- titles to cars- DMV, locksmiths, etc.
posted by TheBones at 11:11 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

This sounds like something you may want to ask a lawyer about.
posted by schmod at 11:13 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

This really sounds like you need an Estate Lawyer for this.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:21 AM on October 19, 2011

Get the locks changed once you have the right to go in.
posted by brujita at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Estate lawyer. Probate can take up to eight months in some jurisdictions.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2011

I am not an estate lawyer, btw, just reiterating the suggestion that you really need one.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:25 AM on October 19, 2011

I hear the siren song of an estate lawyer, calling to you.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2011

We cannot afford a lawyer.
When we have the death certificate, will it matter that there's no relation between our names and his? Will previous names be on the certificate?
posted by gally99 at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2011

Most lawyers will give a 1/2 or a full hour free consultation. They will be able to answer your questions above.
posted by TheBones at 12:07 PM on October 19, 2011

Who informed you of your uncle's death? If it was the police or a representative in an official capacity of some kind, perhaps that person could help you navigate through these murky waters?

Presumably, someone knows you were the next of kin, or you would not be involved, since he didn't leave a will. I'd start from there-- and then, yes, I really think you will need an estate lawyer. Perhaps one could be consulted on a contingency basis, and paid once the estate clears, from the proceeds, if you sell the house, something like that?
posted by misha at 1:00 PM on October 19, 2011

Try to find a low-cost legal clinic. Seriously, you might need help due to the name changes, etc. You will likely need several copies of the death certificate, to get through the paperwork. Closing out someone's estate is a huge messy PITA. You will probably need a judge to declare some executor. The state may have regulations because he died intestate. All these reasons and more suggest legal help is necessary.

Call a locksmith in his area and find out what paperwork hey will require to open up the house and change the locks.
posted by annsunny at 1:00 PM on October 19, 2011

When I recently went through a family member's death, I had no idea how to do anything. For my state, I found a lot of helpful information on the Motor Vehicle Administration website for dealing with car and registration stuff. The rest of the information I needed was on the county website for the Register of Wills, including for people who die without a will. People in the office there were also really helpful so that I could be named administrator and begin to take care of things like paying creditors, closing bank accounts etc.

For most things, you will need original death certificates, not copies so order multiples.
posted by maxg94 at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If there was no will then your uncle died "intestate" meaning without a will and the property is distributed according to state law. And unless there were special provisions made before his death I doubt you have any legal right to enter his property. You need a lawyer for sure. I have the opinion that you are risking great problems if you do not proceed carefully.
posted by JayRwv at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our Legal Aid office, just as an example, has periodic clinics where you can go in and without necessarily getting a lawyer outright, get free advice on basically where to start with things. So, calling legal aid could help you a lot, even if you don't qualify for them in general.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2011

The first thing you have to do is determine who is the nearest relative. You say "we". Who is "we"?

In most states, it is the nearest relative who will have the first chance to act.

In my state, I would advise the nearest relative that he would have the right to enter his home, to look for a will and to safeguard the property, among other things. But you will need advice from a lawyer there.

(I know you said he did not have a will. But how do you know unless you look for one?)
posted by yclipse at 2:05 PM on October 19, 2011

You can't afford not to have a lawyer.
If you are adamant about not finding one, just walk away from whatever is in that house. You didn't have it before, so not having it in the future will be fine.
posted by kavasa at 3:03 PM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

Not your lawyer...etc.

1. Establish whether you may have a claim. This will be governed by Nevada state law. This may help you. You say you are his nephew. Did he have kids? Does he have living siblings? Are your grandparents alive? If so, they all outrank you. This would be the scenario that would end up in you having a claim:

NRS ยง 134.060 No issue, surviving spouse or parent but sibling. If there is no issue, surviving spouse, or father or mother, then the estate goes in equal shares to the brothers and sisters of the decedent and to the children of any deceased brother or sister in equal shares, per capita.

NB. Issue = children of the deceased.

2. If you do have a possible claim, are there other nieces and nephews? They will have a claim too.

3. If you do have a possible claim, you will likely have to go through the probate process with a court appointed executor. This page appears to give a good run-down. Of course, with you being in Cali., you'll need a lawyer to act for you in Nevada. the process will likely be long and annoying.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:20 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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