Whether you are 12 or 62, the death of a parent is not easy to handle. If you recently lost your father, you are probably still grieving the loss. At the same time, you may be feeling the need to get started on the administration of your father’s estate. If your father failed to leave behind a Last Will and Testament appointing an Executor of his estate, someone must petition to become the Administrator. What happens if the family cannot agree on who that person should be? If you find yourself in that situation, it is important to know how the law views such a conflict. An Oklahoma City probate attorney at Parman & Easterday explains who will likely be appointed as the Administrator of an estate when there is not a consensus among the family.
Understanding the Probate Process
For some time after the death of a parent it can be almost impossible to focus on anything but the emotional impact of your loss. Nevertheless, there are practical and legal steps that must be taken in time period that immediately follows a death. Unless the decedent held all his or her assets in a living trust, among the most important of those is to initiate the probate of the estate. Probate is the legal process that identifies and values assets and eventually distributes a decedent’s assets. Probate also allows a Will to be authenticated or challenged, creditors to be notified and file claims against the estate, and all debts of the estate to be paid. Who oversees this process will depend, first and foremost, on whether or not the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament.
Testate vs. Intestate Estates
A “testate” estate refers to the estate of a Testator who left behind a valid Last Will and Testament. An “intestate” estate refers to the estate of someone who did not execute a Will prior to death. In a testate estate, the “Executor”, or Personal Representative, is the person appointed by the Testator in his/her Will to oversee the probate of the estate. Although a court must ultimately approve that appointment, doing so is usually more of a formality as long as the individual meets the legal requirements to perform those duties. If the decedent died intestate, any adult can petition the court to be named as the “Administrator” of the estate. For the most part, an Executor and Administrator perform the same duties and have the same responsibilities during the probate of an estate.
Who Decides on the Administrator?
When it becomes apparent that a decedent died intestate, someone must petition the appropriate probate court to become the Administrator of the estate. Ideally, the surviving family members all agree on who that person should be; however, sometimes the circumstances following a death are less than ideal. If the family members cannot agree on a choice for the Administrator, you may end up with more than one person asking the court to be appointed. The court will then have to make the choice based on the priority established by law. State law governs most aspects of probate, including the appointment of an Administrator. In Oklahoma, the order of priority for an Administrator is as follows:
- Brothers or sisters
- Other next of kin
- Any other qualified adult
If several persons are equally entitled to serve, the court may appoint one or more of them as Administrators. In addition, if someone does not agree with the court’s choice, they have the right to object within ten days. If an objection is filed, that objection will have to be litigated which will extend the time it takes to probate the estate and potentially diminish the estate assets.
Contact an Oklahoma City Probate Attorney
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to become the Administrator of an estate, or if you have already been appointed and would like assistance during the probate of an estate, contact an experienced Oklahoma City probate attorney at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.