The Estate: With a valid Will (Probate)- Without a Valid Will (Intestacy)

When someone dies and leaves a will the person is said to have died Testate. A Petition for Letters Testamentary is submitted to the Surrogate’s Court in the County in which the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death to have the Will admitted into probate. Probate is the legal proceeding used to prove the validity of a will and to supervise the orderly distribution of the Decedent’s assets to heirs and potential creditors insuring that valid debts of the estate are paid.  When a will has been left behind it makes the probate process easier in that the will acts as instructions on how to distribute the estate’s assets.  The Will also gives the decedent the opportunity to appoint an executor whom is trusted.  An executor is your personal representative who sees to it that your wishes, as contained in your Will, are carried out after your death.

When someone dies and does not leave a valid Will, the person is said to have died Intestate. A Peititon for Letters of Administration is submitted in the Surrogate’s Court in the County in which the decedent was domiciled at the time of their death.  In this situation the estate guidance and distribution is decided by the courts. The court appoints an administrator and the assets are distributed in accordance with state law. The terms of intestate distribution plans vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and can be very complex.  Many times, but. not always, the surviving spouse and children will receive first share of the estate.  Because the state must make assumptions about the intent of the deceased, it can not take into account if the deceased person wished to bequeath something to a good friend, in-law or charity.

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