This is the second installment in our three-part series on estate administration. You can find Part One here.
Handling the administration of an estate after a loved one’s death can be daunting. If your loved one created an estate plan, this will help immensely, but the mechanics of gathering, transferring, and tracking property can still be a bit confusing. If the decedent did not create a trust, the probate court must be involved in the process of distributing property either through a will or through the state laws of intestate succession.
If your loved one chose a will instead of a trust, the executor of the will (also called the personal representative) will need to open a probate estate with the court in order to transfer ownership of the decedent’s assets. The probate court will use the will to understand and follow the decedent’s wishes. As with a trust, the executor must gather property, pay final expenses, and determine which beneficiaries are to receive property. She must also obtain permission from the court to transfer property and must regularly file detailed reports with the court. With a will, the court exercises a large degree of control over the executor’s actions, which makes excellent record-keeping important here too. A court will also decide who will manage any money left to minor children and how that money will be spent, including which expenditures are reasonable in the judge’s view.
Stay tuned for our next installment in this series, in which we will discuss estate administration when the decedent did not create a trust or will.
If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.