Administrator of an Estate is the legal term referring to a person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of a person who died intestate (without leaving a will). This administrator will enjoy privileges similar to those of an executor, including the settling of debts, the payment of taxes and funeral expenses, and the distribution of the remaining assets.
A will is a legal document created to provide instructions on how an individual’s property and custody of minor children, if any, should be handled after death. The individual expresses their wishes through the document and names a trustee or executor that they trust to fulfill their stated intentions. The will also indicates whether a trust should be created after death. Depending on the estate owner’s intentions, a trust can go into effect during their lifetime (living trust) or after their death (testamentary trust).
Beyond the absence of a challenge, there is also the question of probate administration, either Independent Administration or Dependent Administration. An executor can request Independent Administration if the will says they can ask for this. If the will says nothing about administration, all the beneficiaries agree that Independent Administration is the proper course of action. In this case, the executor does not have to post bond and no court supervision is required for the executor to take the steps needed to settle the estate. However, the executor must still publish notice of the probate (to inform potential creditors of the probate) and file an inventory of the estate’s assets.
Signing of Will. The Will must be attested by two or more witnesses in the presence of the testator and each other. A beneficiary or his/her spouse cannot be a witness to the will. No beneficiary or his/her spouse will be entitled to receive any devise, legacy, estate, interest, gift or appointment if the beneficiary or his/her spouse is the attesting witness to the will.
Some of the decedent's property may never enter probate because it passes to another person contractually, such as the death proceeds of an insurance policy insuring the decedent or bank or retirement account that names a beneficiary or is owned as "payable on death", and property (sometimes a bank or brokerage account) legally held as "jointly owned with right of survivorship".
When a person dies, his or her estate must go through probate, which is a process overseen by a probate court. If the decedent leaves a will directing how his or her property should be distributed after death, the probate court must determine if it should be admitted to probate and given legal effect. If the decedent dies intestate—without leaving a will—the court appoints a Personal Representative to distribute the decedent's property according to the laws of Descent and Distribution. These laws direct the distribution of assets based on hereditary succession.
When someone dies, the term "probate" usually refers to the legal process whereby the deceased's assets are collected together and, following various legal and fiscal steps and processes, eventually distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate. Technically the term has a particular legal meaning, but it is generally used within the English legal profession as a term to cover all procedures concerned with the administration of a deceased person's estate. As a legal discipline the subject is vast and it is only possible in an article such as this to cover the most common situations, but even that only scratches the surface.
A party may challenge any aspect of the probate administration, such as a direct challenge to the validity of the will, known as a will contest, a challenge to the status of the person serving as personal representative, a challenge as to the identity of the heirs, and a challenge to whether the personal representative is properly administering the estate. Issues of paternity can be disputed among the potential heirs in intestate estates, especially with the advent of inexpensive DNA profiling techniques. In some situations, however, even biological heirs can be denied their inheritance rights, while non-biological heirs can be granted inheritance rights.