Administrator Responsibilities for Estate Sales Without a Will

By Wayne Thomas

When a person dies without a will, the state probate court will appoint an individual to oversee the transfer of his property to any living heirs. This person is referred to as the administrator; it is his job to value all of the deceased person's assets and make sure all outstanding debts and taxes are paid before distributing any property.

Selling Estate Property

In all states, the administrator owes a duty of care to the decedent's heirs. This means that if property needs to be sold to pay a deceased person's debts, the administrator must take all reasonable steps to make sure assets are valued properly and sold for an appropriate price. Further, state law may specify situations in which the administrator must seek court approval before authorizing a sale. In Virginia, for example, if the deceased person died without a will, the administrator may not sell any real estate without a court order deeming the sale necessary to cover the debts of the estate.

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Estate Administrator Duties


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When a person passes away, the process of complying with the terms of the will is known as probate. This legal process generally involves appointing an executor (typically named in the will) to manage the decedent’s estate. The executor is the person responsible for liquidating assets of the estate. If you are named as an executor, you may need to liquidate some of the estate’s assets to pay off the decedent’s and estate’s financial obligations. If estate liabilities need to be paid, try to settle those obligations using the decedent’s bank accounts. Since the cash is already available, you can avoid the complications that could arise from asset liquidation.

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