If a person passes away with a will, they most likely have named an executor in their will to manage their estate following their death. However, if the person died without a will, you and others may petition the court to serve as administrator of the estate.
The court will administer a hearing to name the nominated executor or someone else to serve as the administrator or personal representative of the estate.
Once you are officially chosen, you may begin the administration process. You will have several responsibilities depending on which process is used to administer the estate. These estate administration processes may include:
- Probate: The person named as executor in the decedent’s will must go through a court process to probate the will (have a judge validate the will) before starting the estate administration process.
- Voluntary administration: If the decedent has a smaller estate, the administrator can petition the court to allow for a simplified probate. Once the creditors are paid off, the court will have to approve the distribution of any remaining property.
- Waiver of full administration: In cases with only one beneficiary, the administrator can simply certify there are no debts and will not have to take inventory of all estate property.
- Estate administration (regular): In cases with multiple beneficiaries or a larger estate, the standard estate administration process may be required.
As an estate administrator, you owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of that estate. For more information on your responsibilities, consider speaking with an estate administration attorney in your area.