Losing a parent is almost always difficult, but if you lose your mother or father and find out he or she never created a will, you may face even more hardship. When your parent dies “intestate,” or without a will, it may cost you and other loved ones unnecessary time and expense.

While you may be able to prevent this by encouraging your parent to draft a will while still living, you have limited options once your parent passes away without one. What should you do if your mother or father dies without leaving a will behind?

Perform a thorough search for one

The first step you should take is to perform a comprehensive and thorough search for the document. Is it possible your mom or dad left this document in a file cabinet, or on his or her old computer? Does he or she have an attorney who may have more information? Could your parent have left a will behind in a safe deposit box? Before you accept that he or she died without one, make sure to cover all your bases in the search for it.

Prepare for a meeting with an attorney

If you have exhausted all of your options and have still not found a will, the next step involves gathering as much information and documentation as possible about your parent’s assets and other financial affairs. Make sure to have financial statements and tax returns readily available. Once you have gathered as much information as possible, meeting with an attorney may help you determine what step to take next.

Determine the need for probate

At this point, you may need to begin the process of probate. If your parent did not leave a will, the probate process may help determine how the state distributes your parents’ assets if they fail to express their wishes in this area.