When a loved one passes away, many surviving family members may feel as if their lives have been turned upside down. If the deceased was someone particularly close to you, you may want to do everything you can to make sure that his or her estate is settled in accordance with that person's wishes.
Typically, you could handle these affairs yourself if the decedent named you as executor in his or her will. However, you may have discovered that your loved one did not create a will or other estate planning documents, and as a result, the person did not appoint an executor. Even in this type of situation, you may still have the chance to act as personal representative.
Order of priority
When a person dies intestate, or without a will, California state laws come into play regarding the closing of the estate, property distribution and who can act as representative. An order of priority typically exists, but state laws can have an impact on this order. Generally, however, a spouse is considered first, then children and then any other remaining family members. If you are not a spouse or child, you may have to take extra steps to pursue the appointment.
In some cases, individuals with a higher priority than you will not want to take on the job. This is not unusual as personal representatives have a number of responsibilities, and closing an estate can be stressful. If you discuss your desire to act in this role and others are willing to have you pass them in order of priority, you will need to obtain waivers from those individuals and likely also file a petition with the court for your candidacy.
Administering the estate
If the court does appoint you as administrator, you will need to start the administration process. This step will involve a number of actions including the following:
- Understanding local probate court filing requirements
- Filing the petition for administration
- Attending a probate hearing, if necessary
- Obtaining a probate bond, if necessary
These steps are only a few needed to get the administration process started. Therefore, you may want to make sure that you fully understand the role of estate administrator and that you are prepared to take on the position before you petition to act as the personal representative. In order to gain necessary information and any needed assistance, you may wish to consult with a probate attorney.