One main purpose of writing a will is to choose who will serve as the executor of your estate. But what happens if someone dies without a will? The court can appoint an administrator or personal representative to manage your estate, but how will they do it?
The court determines who will serve as administrator, executor, fiduciary or personal representative based solely on state law. The court will not try to guess the deceased’s personal feelings or preferences; the choice is driven by law and law alone. State law often sets a hierarchy or priority order for the courts to choose who will be the administrator from.
For example, New Jersey’s hierarchy, according to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 3B:10-2, states that the spouse or domestic partner will be the first choice to be appointed administrators, with the second choice any other heir (defined as a person entitled to inherit by law). Some states have priority lists nearly three times as long as New Jersey, but every state has some sort of hierarchy to follow if an administrator, executor or personal representative is to be appointed to a deceased person’s estate.
The court ultimately has final say over who is appointed as administrative personal representative or executor. Only the court can issue the letters of administration to give someone authority over a deceased person’s estate.
State law can also disqualify people who otherwise could be appointed as administrator. For example, no state allows anyone under 18 to serve as a personal representative, with some states setting the minimum at 21. Some states only allow out of state personal representatives if the representative was a close relative of the deceased. Judges ultimately have a lot of discretion in who they allow to serve as personal representative, though. For example, states that have adopted the Uniform Probate Code give judges the ability to disqualify anyone they consider “unsuitable” for the position of personal representative. Substance abuse or crimes involving dishonesty would likely invoke this “unsuitable” provision. Learn more about how an estate administrator is chosen.
Regardless of who the court appoints as personal representative, administrator, or executor, the court can require the personal representative to post an estate surety bond to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law.
What’s the easiest way to purchase a court required estate surety bond?
Colonial Surety offers the direct and digital way to obtain estate bonds, also known as probate bonds, personal representative bonds, executor bonds, and administrator bonds. We are the insurance company — which means no agent, no broker, and no middleman. We make it easy to obtain your bond instantly. The steps are easy — get a quote online, fill out your information, satisfy underwriting requirements, and enter your payment method. Print or e-file your bond from your office. It’s that simple!