Last time, we began discussing the basic requirements that a person named as the personal representative of an estate must be able to satisfy in order to serve in this vital role, and how those people found by a circuit court judge to meet these basic requirements are vested with the necessary authority via “Letters of Administration.”
In today’s post, we’ll continue this discussion by exploring who will be appointed to serve as personal representative if a person dies without a will.
If the deceased was, in fact, intestate, the task of appointing a personal representative rests with the circuit court judge. It’s important to understand, however, that they are not simply granted the authority to appoint whomever they please.
Indeed, state law dictates that the surviving spouse of the deceased has the first right to be appointed to serve as personal representative.
In the event the deceased was unmarried, or the surviving spouse is either unwilling or unable to serve, the second right to be appointed as the personal representative actually rests with the deceased’s heirs. Specifically, the person — or institution — favored by the majority of heirs will assume the role — provided they are otherwise qualified.
It’s only when these heirs are unable to arrive at a decision that the circuit court judge can step in. Accordingly, if the heirs are at loggerheads, the judge will hold a hearing in which they will hear from interested parties and make the necessary decision.
We’ll continue exploring this topic in future posts, including taking a look at some of the important duties assigned to the personal representative.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have any questions or concerns about the probate or estate administration process.