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Estate Administration (Probate)

Probate generally is the legal process whereby the real and personal property owned by the decedent is transferred to another. Essentially the initial step is to authenticate the writing as the decedent’s last will and testament. If the will appoints an executor, the person named then has to qualify for the office. Thereafter, the surrogate issues Letters Testamentary, which is the written authorization for the person to lawfully act on behalf of the estate. The executor then inventories all of the assets owned by the decedent and identifies all debts. Once this is accomplished, taxes, debts and expenses incurred during the administration of the estate must be paid, an accounting to the heirs named in the will should be rendered and the assets are distributed in accordance with the terms and provisions of the will.

If the decedent dies “intestate” (without a will), the court will appoint a person to lawfully act on behalf of the estate. That person is called an administrator. The person named then has to qualify for the office. Upon qualification, the surrogate issues Letters of Administration, which is the written court authorization for the administrator to lawfully act on behalf of the estate. The administrator then inventories all of the assets owned by the decedent and identifies all debts. Once this is accomplished, the administrator pays any taxes, debts and expenses incurred during administration of the estate and renders an accounting to the heirs. The heirs are those persons entitled to inherit as defined by state law (intestacy statutes).