Estate Administration refers to the management and settlement of the estate of an intestate, or of a testator who has no executor, performed under the supervision of a court to ensure assets and interests of the decedent pass to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries.
Administering an Estate through Probate
In a probate case, an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will) is appointed by the court as personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries (those who have the legal right to inherit), all under the supervision of the court. The entire case can take between 9 months to 1 ½ years, maybe even longer.
You may or may not need to go to probate court to obtain title to property belonging to the decedent. Figuring out if you have to go to probate court depends on many issues, like the amount of money involved, the type of property involved, and who is claiming the property. And deciding if probate court is needed may also depend on how the property is owned (the type of title ownership) or if there is some type of contract with beneficiaries. For example:
Sometimes all or some of a decedent’s property passes directly to the beneficiaries because of how the property is owned. So if the property was owned in joint tenancy, if it was community property with the right of survivorship, if it was a bank account owned by several people, or a bank account that is transferred to someone when the owner dies, then, in general, when the owner of the property dies, the property goes to the survivor. Keep in mind that even in these cases, the survivor may have to take legal steps to clarify his or her ownership of the transferred property.
Sometimes all or some of a decedent’s property does not need to go through probate to pass to the beneficiaries. This is because this property is a type of contract with named beneficiaries. Examples of this are life insurance that pays benefits to someone else other than the dead person’s estate, retirement benefits, death benefits, and trusts.