When a loved one passes and they have left behind adequate assets that go above and beyond the expenses of their funeral and burial, formal administration of their assets may be necessary. This of course can be avoided if they have a will or trust that names specific beneficiaries or there is joint ownership of the assets. Unfortunately, too many people avoid this important component of taking care of their assets, mostly because honestly, who wants to think about dying? For those that avoid the topic like the plague, you might find yourself dealing with formal administration. Luckily, the process is not as scary as it sounds – but anything with formal and administration in it can see rather overwhelming, right?
The first step requires the executor of the will (the person named as responsible for distributing the assets), to ask the court to become the personal representative of the estate. This status is not immediately granted, however. There is a period of time that others get to object. Do you have any family members out there that you wronged at some point? Guess what, they are likely to come fight for your position and they have every right to do it. Everyone that would be considered an heir or beneficiary is given notice of your desire to become the personal representative.
Once it is determined that you are eligible to be the personal representative, you are given a letter of importance – it is actually called the Letter of Administration – which grants you powers, just like a king. You are now able to distribute the estate. Of course, you must abide by the will, assuming there is one written. But, the court needs to prove that it is valid. Here come those pesky family members that are angry with you again – they could try to prove that the will was done under duress, so watch out. There are certain cases where the will is proven without needing testament from others, but these cases are few and far between and require the witnesses to sign a statement with a notary public present at the time your loved one signed the will.
So, back to the formal administration; once you are granted the almighty powers of personal representative, you are able to distribute the assets, but under the supervision of the court. This means that you pay off debts, pay the taxes and distribute what is left to those that they belong to. You must prove to the court that you did everything as it was supposed to be done by submitting receipts and final accounting to the responsible court.
Basically, when a loved one passes, buckle up for a good 6 months to a year as that is how long it could take before everything is settled.