If you die without leaving behind a valid Last Will and Testament, you are said to have died “intestate”. Intestate simply means, in legal terms, that you died without a Will. When a person does leave a valid Will behind, one important provision in the Will is the appointment of an executor to oversee the administration of the decedent’s estate. If no Will is located, then someone is still required to be appointed to serve in the position. Although the name may vary from one state to the next, the person who oversees the administration of an intestate estate is commonly called the personal representative.
The role of personal representative is an important one. After you die, all of your assets must be inventoried and valued. In addition, all creditors of the estate must file claims and valid debts must be paid. Taxes must also be filed by the estate and any tax obligations paid. Only after all this has been accomplished to the satisfaction of the court can your estate assets be passed down to heirs. All of this is accomplished through the legal process known as probate. The personal representative is in charge of all the day to day business associated with the probate of your estate, although the court will supervise the process.
State rules and procedures may vary somewhat with regard to the appointment of a personal representative; however, most states follow similar procedures. A family member or loved one can petition the court for the right to be appointed as the personal representative. The court must then review the petition and approve or deny the petition. In the event that the court denies the petition, or when no one petitions for the appointment, the court will have to appoint someone from the community to serve in the position.
By executing a Last Will and Testament, you can avoid the possibility of someone you don’t’ want, or even someone you don’t know, serving as administrator of your estate.