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Question pertains to United States: California. I am including as much information as may be pertinent.


My mother died a few weeks ago. I was estranged from her as my parents divorced when I was a child and grew up with my father.

Because of the estrangement I knew nothing of her finances, and only by going through paperwork to clean out her apartment did I learn any financial information. Because she rented an apartment there is no house to be considered. Her vehicle was stolen a few months before her death so no assets there. To the best of my knowledge/research she had no land ownership. She did have an IRA from her employer before she was let-go/fired/no-longer-employed. I am listed on the IRA account as beneficiary. Outside of the IRA there is, that I know of, 1 account with her name on it.

She left no written will or living trust, that I know of, and no Power of Attorney (PoA) paperwork. As living descendant (I'm assuming I become defacto estate executor) I called all financial institutions and CC numbers I could find and informed each of them that she is dead. A few weeks have passed since calling and so far one Credit Card (CC) company has called about estate payment. As CC are unsecured debts does the balance, ~$1,000 for this card, die with her?

PS: Anything I ought to be aware of and know? Never done this before and prefer to know legal rights/requirements.

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    Check state laws on executorship: you will probably need some paperwork to gain authority over the accounts. It sounds like she was intestate, which will cause further complications, but there are plenty of online explanations from lawyers who hope you'll hire them. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Nov 6 at 23:17
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Debts do not just die with debtors.

The creditors have legal rights to wet their beaks in whatever monies/valuables are left from the deceased.

Expect the $1k CC debt to be deducted from the IRA and/or the account left it her name.

  • Needs expansion: all debts come out of the estate if possible, and IRA may have special rules. But if this is a genuine debt and there are no others, it's certainly taken out of the bank account. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Nov 6 at 23:13

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