If you hear the term, “intestate,” it means that a person has passed away without a valid will. If the person had a will, it would have stated exactly how the person wished their property to be distributed to their heirs. If the person didn’t have a valid will when they passed away, the government would take over distributing the person’s assets, which may not be according to their wishes.
That is why a will is so important. If you leave a valid will, you can have peace of mind knowing that your assets will go where you want after you are no longer here.
Once a person passes away, the probate court will get involved. The job of the probate court is to oversee the legal process that dictates that all taxes, debts and other unresolved financial issues of the person who passed away will be resolved. Once that happens, the people who are entitled to receive the inheritance will receive what is rightfully theirs.
What is the next step if there is a valid will?
If there is a valid will, the probate court will typically asks the executor (who was named by the deceased in the will) to officially serve as executor of the estate. If there is nobody who was designated as the executor in the will or if the person who was designated refuses the position, the probate court will choose someone else to act as the administrator of the will. The executor (or administrator) has a responsibility to make sure that the deceased person’s financial issues are resolved. After that, what is left of the estate will be distributed to the people and/or places that are designated in the will.
If the person dies without a will, the probate court will appoint an administrator of the estate and that person will report to the court to make sure that the deceased person’s financial affairs are in order and that whatever remains of the estate will be distributed according to the will.
How does the probate court choose an administrator?
If the spouse of the deceased person is still living, the court will appoint them as administrator. If the spouse either declines the position or they are not alive, the court will appoint the next of kin as the administrator of the will. If the court deems that person to not be suitable, another suitable person (in the eyes of the court) will be appointed instead.
That person will be required to sign an acceptance statement that outlines their responsibilities and acknowledges that the court has the power to fine or remove the administrator if they fail to perform their duties in good faith.
Estate administration is often complicated and having the support and guidance of a knowledgeable estate lawyer can be invaluable. There are many essential aspects of an estate and it will give you peace of mind to have the support of someone who can ensure that everything is being done appropriately and by the book.