Probate Laws for No Will in the State of Maine

By Maggie Lourdes

Maine probate courts oversee the distribution of decedents' estates to their heirs. When a person dies without a will, thus leaving an intestate estate, Maine probate statutes govern how the intestate estate should be divided. Probate judges appoint personal representatives, also called administrators, to distribute intestate estates to heirs. Generally, an administrator must gather estate assets, pay estate debts and convey the net assets to heirs within approximately one year of appointment.

Spouses, Children and Divisions

A decedent's spouse or domestic partner inherits his entire intestate estate, unless the decedent also leaves children. If the decedent and the surviving spouse or domestic partner share children, the first $50,000 of the estate goes to the spouse or domestic partner. Then, the spouse or partner split the balance with the children. If the decedent's children are not also those of the surviving spouse or partner, the spouse or partner inherits only half of the estate. The children share the remaining half equally.

More Remote Heirs

If a decedent leaves no spouse, partner or children, the state looks for the next closest relatives. Grandchildren, parents, grandparents and siblings are next in line to inherit. If none exist, the law defaults to more remote heirs, such as nieces, nephews and cousins in the closest degrees. If a decedent leaves no surviving relatives, his intestate estate is transferred to Maine's state treasury after approximately one year.

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Missing Heirs and Estates

An intestate administrator must take reasonable steps to locate heirs. This includes publishing a notice of the pending probate estate in a local newspaper. If missing heirs cannot be found within the year, they can still claim an inheritance even after assets have been transferred to the state. Maine reports unclaimed inheritances on its official state website and offers assistance to help heirs claim their missing inheritances.

Closing an Estate

An intestate administrator must pay court fees, file estate tax returns and pay the estate's debts from its assets. She also must apprise the court of the estate's distributions to heirs. An administrator may charge a reasonable fee for her services. After all proper distributions are made, the administrator requests that the court close the estate. The court then enters an order discharging the administrator of her legal duties to the estate.

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Administrator Responsibilities for Estate Sales Without a Will

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.

What Is the Meaning of Settle Estate?

A Last Will and Testament contains instructions for the distribution of a person's assets, also referred to as the estate, when he dies. The will names a specific person, known as the executor, to act as the estate's representative. The executor, sometimes referred to as the administrator, must collect the decedent's assets, pay his debts and estate taxes, and distribute his remaining assets to the heirs named in the will. This process, called settling the estate, occurs under the supervision of the state probate court.

Estate Laws for Insolvent Estates in Georgia

Georgia law considers a decedent's estate insolvent when the decedent dies without enough money to pay all of his debts, including taxes. As in bankruptcy, Georgia law exempts some assets from creditor attachment. In other words, some assets are not available to creditors to satisfy an estate's debt. Georgia law establishes the order in which debts must be paid from estate assets less exemptions. Each debt must be paid in full before the next in line may be paid. If there are not enough assets left to pay all of the debts remaining, those creditors do not receive payment.

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