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How to Become an Executor of an Estate Without a Will

If you die without a will, you’re considered to have died “intestate,” which means that the local government is in charge of how your assets will be dealt with.

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No will, no problem? Not quite. It’s understandable that no one wants to think about dying, but the truth is that you never know what can happen, and not having a will can really leave your loved ones in a lurch. If you die without a will, you’re considered to have died “intestate,” which means that the local government is in charge of how your assets will be dealt with.

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Usually, this process follows strict inheritance laws, which means that only your closest family members can inherit your assets. These laws usually follow the chain of inheritance, meaning that your spouse usually receives your assets along with your children, and if you’re not married and have no children then your siblings are next in line, and if you have no siblings then your parents, and so forth. If you have no next-of-kin, then your assets might even be taken by the state. Whatever you wished for is of no relevance.

Since an estate executor is usually named in a will, it’s common to wonder who then becomes an executor of the estate of someone who died intestate. The truth is that an executor is still necessary to settle the estate. But instead of being named by the deceased, with plenty of time to discuss the tasks, wishes, and responsibilities, the probate court will name an executor. In some cases, the executor may be called an estate administrator or personal representative, but the responsibilities remain the same.

Who will be named executor?

Usually, the probate court will make things easy and name the next-of-kin, either the surviving spouse or one of the deceased’s adult children. If there’s someone like a close friend who’d like to act as executor, they’ll need to obtain a waiver from those with higher priority to be named executor.

The named executor will then have to apply for probate and cover all fees, as any other executor must do. Being an executor is a tough job already, so imagine how tough it would be to have the appointment come as a complete surprise, in the midst of grieving. In an ideal situation, the executor and the estate holder will have had ample opportunities to discuss the estate holder’s wishes, plan out the estate, and be prepared for what’s to come. Not having a will robs a potential executor of this chance to prepare.

It’s also worth pointing out that just because a court nominated someone as executor, that person has no obligation to accept the role. They can reject the nomination, in which case the court will continue down the line of inheritance until an executor is found.

As you can imagine, you can save yourself and your loved ones a lot of worry and stress by ensuring that you have a solid estate plan, which includes a valid will and a named estate executor. Curious to learn more about estate planning? Get in touch with one of our professionals for a free consultation today.

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