Who should manage an estate & how does the probate court decide?

probate courtWho manages the estate is a common question in probate law. It depends on a number of factors. This probate law question comes from someone in Atlanta, Georgia.

First, I’d like to clarify a few terms. There are a few different titles for the person who is in charge of managing an estate. The most common two are an executor and an administrator. Which title is used depends on whether the deceased had a will. The legal powers and legal duties of the person managing the estate can change depending on which title is used, what the will says (if there is one), and the court order appointing the administrator (if there is no will).

So, a person can be an executor if the deceased had a will and the will nominates that person as the executor, or otherwise indicates that that person should manage the estate. That is the only way someone can become an executor. If there is no will, then there cannot be an executor.

If the deceased did not have a will or if the will does not name the person who wants to represent the estate as the executor, then that person can potentially become the administrator of the estate. It is up to the probate court to determine who should be the administrator, and the probate court will look at the situation to determine who will best serve the needs of the estate. Georgia probate law does provide the court some guidance, however, and there is a list of preference in the law. The top candidates are someone selected unanimously by the legal heirs, the surviving spouse, and someone selected by a majority of the legal heirs.

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Once selected and approved by the probate court, the executor or administrator has full power and authority to manage and administer the estate, including the ability to deal with real estate, finances, and personal property.

Probate can be more complicated than it first appears, and that is especially true if it looks like someone will contest control of the estate. If these issues sound familiar, especially if it is a contested situation, I recommend that you hire a probate attorney to help you through it. Our office is happy to talk with you more about this. If you’re interested, please contact us so we can set up a convenient time to talk.

Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice is specifically tailored to your particular situation. Please contact our office to receive specific information advice about your situation.