"Interested Person" Probate Definition

By Beverly Bird

If you have a financial stake in the estate of a decedent or a legal obligation to the estate, probate law defines you as an "interested person." Although state laws and definitions vary somewhat, they usually bear similar guidelines. Florida statutes, for example, define an interested person as anyone who is “affected by the outcome” of probate proceedings and this is the norm.

Heirs and Beneficiaries

Anyone with the potential to inherit from the decedent is an interested person. If he left a will, all individuals to whom he bequeathed property are interested persons. Next of kin who are not named in his will may also be interested persons. For instance, if they would've inherited had the decedent died intestate, or without a will. However, not all relatives stand to inherit through intestate succession. Intestate succession is a prescribed, statutory order of relatives who have inheritance rights, beginning with spouses and children and working outward to more distant kin. More distant kin cannot inherit if more immediate kin are alive to do so when the decedent dies. Therefore, the decedent’s parents might not be interested persons if the decedent left a spouse and children. In some states, beneficiaries cease to be interested persons if they receive their bequests prior to the closing of the estate.

Creditors

If the decedent died owing any money, his creditors are interested persons, because they’re entitled to payment from his estate. The term “person” is not literal in the legal sense. It could be the mortgage company that has a lien against the decedent’s home or a company that has sued him and has an active lawsuit or judgment against him.

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Fiduciaries

Fiduciaries are those individuals who have a legal obligation to the estate. The executor is a fiduciary because the decedent charged her with the responsibility of navigating his estate through the probate process. When a decedent dies without a will, the court appoints someone to oversee probate and this person is a fiduciary also. If the decedent created a trust during his lifetime, the individual he named as trustee may be a fiduciary of the estate, even though assets placed in the trust do not have to pass through the probate process. In some probate proceedings, trustees and executors must work together to resolve the decedent's outstanding debts. All fiduciaries are interested persons, even if they don’t have a personal, financial interest in the estate.

Interested Persons’ Rights

Interested persons are the only individuals who can take legal action on behalf of or against the estate. If the decedent died without a will, an interested person could initiate the probate process so as to receive his rightful inheritance. Creditors can also open probate to attempt to collect money the decedent owed them if no family member comes forward to do so. Probate courts are obligated to give notice of all stages of the proceedings to an estate’s interested persons. These individuals can contest a will or object to the appointment of the named executor. They have a right to review the will and to receive copies of all reports the executor submits to the court.

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Probate Laws for Dying Without a Will in Minnesota

References

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Probating a Will & Bills

When an individual dies, the probate court in his county takes possession of his estate. The will's executor then works with the probate court to distribute the estate according to the deceased's wishes and state law. Before friends and family members receive their inheritance, the executor must use proceeds from the estate to pay off any outstanding debts the deceased left behind. Any assets left over belong to the deceased's loved ones and any other beneficiaries named in the will.

Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

In drafting your will, you may appoint a person to serve as your executor, also known as a personal representative. This person will have the responsibility of carrying out your wishes pursuant to the will. Because the executor has a number of responsibilities and can be held personally responsible if they are not properly carried out, carefully consider appointing someone who is trustworthy and capable of carrying out the somewhat complicated probate process.

Who Pays Probate: the Estate or a Beneficiary?

The beneficiaries, or those named in a decedent's will, are often anxious to receive their inheritances, but an estate must often be administered through a court proceeding referred to as probate. During the probate process, the court works in conjunction with the person managing the estate, called the executor or personal representative, to value the decedent's assets and pay off the his creditors. Beneficiaries are often concerned as to whether they are required to pay those debts, or whether the debts are paid by the estate. It is the estate that is liable for the decedent’s debts; however, those debts may include more than just the decedent’s creditors.

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