You may be able to file for wrongful death if the death of your loved one was caused by someone else’s negligence. Your state may allow you to file on the behalf of the deceased’s estate. If you are successful and win a settlement, then you will either be able to keep it, or it will be distributed to other heirs of the estate.
What is a Claim of Wrongful Death?
If someone’s negligent behavior caused the death of another person, then this is considered grounds for a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim. State laws vary on who can file on behalf of the deceased. Commonly, spouses, children and parents file. The person who files may be entitled to compensation from the third party that caused the death.
Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate
A personal representative is someone appointed by the court to represent the deceased, acting as the deceased would if they were there. They are commonly the people who follow the claim. The personal representative distributes any money won in the lawsuit to surviving family members or heirs, people who could have precedent to bring the suit.
What Do Heirs Receive?
Everything gets more complicated if the deceased did not leave a will. State laws differ on the topic of heirs in the case of wrongful death and in the case of the state’s laws of succession. If there is no will then assets are distributed based on the laws of succession. When the deceased has no will, heirs that may have received assets may not if a wrongful death case is filed.
Now what do you do?
When the personal representative wins a case, the money gets distributed to the heirs. A wrongful death lawsuit does not usually prevent inheritance from being dispersed. If an individual is not considered entitled to a portion of the lawsuit (if they are not recognized as a parent, spouse or offspring), they are not necessarily excluded from obtaining inheritance through a different method than the lawsuit.
Hiring a Probate Attorney
If you are concerned about your inheritance because of a probate case, contact an attorney, like a probate lawyer Roseville CA residents can trust, to discuss how you and your loved ones may be affected. Usually, if there is a will and it states heirs and designated beneficiaries, even in a case of wrongful death, then everything should be distributed as the deceased would have wished. However, if you are facing some peculiar circumstances, it may be best to set up a consultation so you may become informed.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Yee Law Group for their insight into wrongful death and the probate process.