How to Dissolve an Estate Without an Executor

By Anna Assad

You may dissolve an estate by formally closing the estate in the probate court holding the proceedings. A person who receives authority from the court has the ability to do all things necessary to settle the estate. The estate of a person who died with a will usually has a court-appointed executor. However, if the executor can't perform his duties or the deceased didn't leave a will, estate dissolution is handled by another person.

Successor Executor

If the estate had an executor but he is no longer able to serve -- if he dies, for instance -- the will may have named a replacement. The successor or alternate executor has to petition the court to be appointed. Once the successor is appointed, she inventories the estate and prepares an account for the court that shows what the previous executor did. The account shows the successor what else she must do to close the estate. She files a final accounting once she's settled all the estate's business, and the court closes the estate.


If the deceased didn't leave a will, heirs may file a petition for administration in probate court instead. The court reviews the petition and appoints an administrator. The administrator handles the estate's assets and debts, divides property according to the state's intestacy laws and files final tax returns. The court closes the estate once the administrator does what's necessary and files a report. An administrator CTA -- also known as an administrator with the will annexed -- is appointed by the court if the deceased left a valid will but none of the named executors can act. For example, a person dies and leaves behind a will. A relative files the will and a petition for probate in court. Both of the executors named in the will are dead, so the estate doesn't have an executor; the court names an administrator CTA instead. The administrator CTA still has to follow the directions in the will and has the same powers as an executor, as well as the authority to do what's necessary to close the estate. A person with an interest in the estate -- an heir or will beneficiary, for example -- may file a petition in court to become the administrator CTA.

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Federal Taxes

The filing and settlement of the deceased's taxes are necessary to close an estate in probate court; the court may require copies of the deceased's final tax return and releases from tax liabilities from the IRS. According to the IRS, if an estate has no court-appointed executor or administrator, a person who is in possession of the decedent's property -- such as a surviving spouse -- is responsible for settling estate taxes. Other potentially responsible parties include custodians of the decedent's property, such as a safe-deposit company, and even a person living in the U.S. who owed the deceased money. The final income tax return for a deceased person is Form 1040 but other forms may be necessary, depending on the decedent's estate value and the type of property he owned.


If a person dies and no heirs or persons who want to manage the estate come forward, the court may appoint a public administrator. A public administrator works for the local government and performs all the duties necessary to close the estate. She's also required to find heirs and the estate's assets. Since the public administrator may not have much information about the deceased person, she may have to locate his assets, such as bank accounts and real estate, by searching public and private records. Some estates don't require full court proceedings for dissolution. If a person dies with no debts or assets or very little household property, full proceedings usually aren't necessary. The rules that determine when formal estate proceedings are needed differ by state.

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