When a person dies, someone must look after their estate (everything they owned or had an interest in when they died). The person who looks after a deceased person’s estate is known as their Executor or Administrator. An individual who was authorized to deal with someone's property during their lifetime can no longer do this unless they are also the Executor or Administrator of the estate. For example, if you have been appointed as someone's power of attorney, you cannot use that power after their death. A power of attorney ends when the person who granted the power of attorney dies.
There are some legal terms that are commonly used in Wills and to describe legal processes that concern Wills. It is helpful to understand these terms as you go through the process of creating a Will.
If you are an Executor appointed under a Will you may need to apply to court for Letters Probate before you can deal with the property of the deceased. Depending on who holds the assets you may not need these. You always need them if there is any real property in the estate.
When there is no Executor under a Will, an application for Letters of Administration may be required to deal with the deceased's estate.
There are ways to simplify the process for distributing an estate when the estate is small. One method can be used if the value of the estate is under $15,000 and there is real property. The other method can only be used if there is no real property and the value of the estate is under $25,000.
There are certain steps that an Executor or Administrator must take to distribute an estate. Failing to take the proper steps can have financial consequences. Executors and Administrators can seek legal advice from a lawyer and charge this expense to the estate.
There are certain costs that may have to be paid by the estate depending on the situation. These include costs of Letters Probate or Letters of Administrations, legal fees and payment to the Executor or Administrator.
Beneficiaries can have concerns about how an estate being handled. Beneficiaries may not be sure what was left to them in the Will. They may think the Executor or Administrator is taking too long to distribute the estate or even question whether the Will is valid. There are options for beneficiaries with concerns.
Distribution of an Estate does not always go smoothly. There are certain common issues that Executors or Administrators can be on the look out for.
PLEA can provide you with information to help you understand many legal matters you, a family member or friend may be facing.