If a loved one passes away without a will and you handle the estate, you should know what steps to take.
If a relative dies without a will and you are chosen to distribute assets to family members, you will most likely find it is not a simple process, according to the Napa Valley Register 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.
An estate planning attorney can assist you if you find yourself in that difficult position.
Reference: Napa Valley Register (Feb. 1, 2018) "Mom died with no will. Now what?"