When someone dies, whether they have a will or not, their estate will generally go through the probate process. While in probate, the person’s estate is collected, their debts will be paid and all of the remaining assets are then distributed to the beneficiaries. If there isn’t a will the court uses independent estate administration to assign someone to be responsible for the management of the estate throughout the probate process. It is important that the assigned administrator follow all state laws regarding the time frames and the probate procedure.
Duties of an Estate Administer
The duties of an estate administer are the same duties as an executor. The primary exception is that until the court has issued a grant of administration, an estate administer cannot begin to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. The executor; however, may immediately begin to act on behalf of the deceased person because the executor is named in the will. An administrator generally has the same powers as an executor, which means that both can act as though they’re in the same power as the deceased person. They have the same powers as the deceased when it comes to the management of the deceased person’s property. Both the executor and the administrator have been trusted by someone else to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries and the estate, without letting their personal interests interfere with the decisions. An estate administrator can also be held personally liable if they do anything that causes a loss in value of the estate, even if they had no intention for the loss of value and didn’t know about potential liability.
Appointment of Estate Administrator
The estate administer is appointed according to a list of family members, in a specific order. The first choice is the spouse of the deceased and if there isn’t a spouse, the children are the next consideration. If there are no children and no spouse, a parent of the deceased, if the parents are deceased, then siblings are next in line. If no family members of the deceased exist, there isn’t a will, there isn’t an executor named in the will or the named executor doesn’t accept the nomination, the court will appoint independent estate administration to manage the estate. In this situation, the administrator is paid with a commission from the estate.
Assets of the Estate
Once the estate administrator has been appointed and the estate is opened, a required notice must be provided to creditors of the deceased, which is typically down through a publication in the local newspaper. This is done because the creditors can submit a claim against the estate. The administrator is responsible for gathering and holding all estate assets until the estate is closed. The estate administrator may also be required to manage the deceased’s investments and assets until they are distributed or sold. In most situations, the administrator will be required by the court to inventory all assets and file the inventory with the court. The administrator has the power to hire lawyers, appraisers, and accountants if necessary and at the expense of the estate.
Administrator and Closing the Estate
In order to satisfy the creditors, the administrator may have to sell some or all of the estate assets. If there are any assets remaining, they will be distributed among the beneficiaries. If the deceased didn’t leave a will, the laws of succession or the state’s intestacy laws will determine how the assets will be distributed. However, if the deceased left a valid will the remaining assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries as named in the will. In some situations the estate administrator may be required to submit a final accounting to the courts before or after the assets are distributed.
In the case of a will being contested, a person with an interest in the estate may file a petition for special administration with the probate court. If a petition is filed, a certified copy of the death certificate is also required and all copies must be delivered by certified mail. The petition that is being filed must state exactly what powers are being requested. The power given to the special administrator is extremely limited unless there is specific authority provided by the court. When there is a named executor, they will generally file the petition, but if the will is contested there may be objections for all or some of the powers to be awarded to the administrator. In this situation, the court may appoint a disinterested third party. In most situations, the appointment period is brief, but in some circumstances, the court may provide the appointment with an indefinite time period.