In a previous Legal Brief on How Probate Works, we discussed the process. Now we’ll take a look at what happens If there is no Will and the court has to name an administrator. How does that work?
If there isn’t a Will, or the Will fails to name an executor, the Probate Court, with input from the surviving family members, names an administrator to handle the process. Most often, the job goes to the closest capable relative or the person who inherits the bulk of the deceased’s assets.
The Probate Court manages how the estate is administered and processed through the legal system. That includes validation of the Will and enforcing provisions of the Will. The probate process does involve paperwork and court appearances so it can be helpful to engage a lawyer to handle the matters for you as they will be familiar with the required court documents, who needs to sign them, the timing of the various steps, etc. The law prohibits the staff of the Probate Court from giving legal advice or assistance.
Sometimes, decedents will name their probate attorney as the executor of the estate. If this is the case, the probate lawyer also manages the physical distribution of assets. This can involve helping to change the title on property, or helping to move assets into the name of the person who inherited them. Of course, the attorney and executor of a person’s will have an ethical and fiduciary duty to all the beneficiaries by honoring and carrying out the wishes of the decedent as expressed in his or her Will.