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When a person dies, if he or she has money, real estate, bank accounts, business assets, stocks, bonds, vehicles and personal property or sometimes he or she just has substantial debts or liabilities, in order for those property matters to be handled, and to have someone with the legal authority to handle them, an estate administration proceeding must be commenced in the Probate Court. If the deceased person (called “decedent”) has a will, the person named as personal representative in the will must petition the court to be appointed as the personal representative. If there is no will, the same statutes determine the priority of people entitled to be appointed. Generally, the priority of appointment is (l) spouse if the decedent was married, (2) next adult children, and if none, then (3) parents and siblings. The estate administration proceeding helps determine who is entitled to the decedent’s assets, and it has a process to notify creditors of the decedent and to determine the priority of claims if there is not enough money to pay them all. The probate process also helps to clear title to real property. Unless there are unusual or difficult issues to be resolved, the estate administration proceedings average taking about 9 or 10 months to complete.
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