question.jpgIn Trusts and Estates

How is an estate administered?

Estate administration does not happen on its own. Thus, when a person dies, someone must start the process. This will usually be someone who has a financial stake in what ultimately happens to the deceased’s property - either someone named as an heir in the will, someone entitled to property under state intestacy statutes or one of the deceased’s creditors who want a piece of the estate to cover outstanding debts. Such a person looking to start an estate administration should first determine whether there was a will left behind by the deceased. Once this determination has been made, a formal application must be prepared

The formal application should be put together in accordance with the applicable state law (which generally establishes a long and detailed process for preparing an application), and that application must be filed with the appropriate court along with a copy of the deceased’s will (if there is one) and the necessary filing fee (each state sets its own amount for this fee). Most states have specific courts for this process, known as probate courts, which is where the application is filed. Some states do not have such probate courts, however, so the state’s laws must be reviewed to determine where the application should be filed.

In most states, once a probate application has been filed the court clerk will then give some type of formal notice indicating that there has been a request for administration and/or that a will has been filed for probate. Following the applicable notice period, the court will have a hearing to determine the validity of any will and whether the court itself has to do anything else to administer the will. If there is no will, the court will determine who the proper heirs are under the state intestacy statutes. Where more administration is necessary, the court will carefully supervise it, but will generally appoint a personal representative to handle the actual details of the administration.