Whether a loved one dies with or without a will in place, there still needs to be someone who is in charge of closing the estate and managing the deceased’s final affairs. When a person passes away, their assets are locked. To unlock all of the deceased’s assets, you must go through the probate court in order to properly manage the estate of the deceased. Follow along with us today as we discuss how to become an administrator of a loved one’s estate.

Estate Executor

An estate executor is an individual who manages a person’s estate after they have passed away. The executor is named in a person’s Last Will & Testament or other estate planning documents. Their responsibilities may include submitting the will for probate, identifying and gathering assets or other property, paying any estate debts, distributing the estate to heirs, filing the decedent’s taxes, and other administrative duties related to closing the estate. They may also be responsible for other special last wishes listed in the will or estate documents.

Estate Administrator

While an estate executor is named in a person’s estate planning documents, an estate administrator is responsible for managing someone’s estate if they pass away without a will. Typically, the probate court overseeing the estate will appoint an administrator. Similar to an executor, an administrator has a duty to preserve the assets of the estate, pay any of the decedent’s legitimate debts, distribute assets to the heirs, pay taxes, and otherwise close the estate. Administrators have a fiduciary duty to act with honesty, good faith, and diligence on behalf of the estate and the decedent.

Becoming an Estate Administrator

If a person dies without a will, their loved ones might not necessarily agree with who the probate court appoints as an administrator, or how that court-appointed administrator manages the estate. It is possible to avoid unnecessary stress and headaches and ask to be appointed administrator of your loved one’s estate.

An experienced estate planning attorney can walk you through the state’s probate rules on your eligibility to serve and whether you have priority to serve. Generally, in most states, the surviving spouse has first priority to serve as the estate administrator, followed by the decedent’s children. The probate court will also consider other family members (ex: siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles), especially if the surviving spouse or children are not interested in the role and they give written permission for another family member to serve.

Once it is determined that an individual is eligible to serve and that they have priority (or written permission), an estate planning attorney can file a Petition to Appoint an Administrator with the probate court. In addition to the filing, the person interested in becoming an administrator will likely have to pay a court/filing fee, provide a detailed list of the decedent’s surviving heirs, and provide an estimated value of the estate. The probate court will then make a decision about whether to appoint the interested individual as the administrator of the estate.

Have Additional Questions? Contact Our Estate Planning Team

If you are interested in becoming an administrator for your loved one’s estate, it’s best to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Probate can be a long and complicated process, and unintentional mistakes can potentially set you back years. At Brian M. Douglas & Associates, we can walk you through Georgia’s probate laws and explain the best options for you and your family. Please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact form. We are always happy to help.