Continuing with our recent theme of Rhode island probate basics, today's post explains who takes care of (administers) your estate if you don't have a will.
If there is no will, then the decedent has not properly named someone to serve as executor and administer the estate. In this case, it is up to the Probate Court where the decedent lived to decide who will be appointed as the administrator of the estate. Because there is no will to execute, the person who administers an estate without a will (an intestate estate) is called an administrator.
By law the Probate Court is to consider the appointment of a surviving spouse or next of kin first. If there is no one fitting that description who is competent, suitable, or willing to serve, or of the surviving spouse or next of kin fail to petition the court to be appointed as administrators within thirty days of the death, the court may appoint any suitable person.
The administration of the estate of someone without a will follows closely along the lines of that of an estate under a will, with all of the same requirements for filing the Inventory, Accounts, and tax returns. The personal representative collects the estate assets, pays its debts and expenses, and finally distributes the estate to the heirs.
One important difference, however, is that if there is no will, the decedent could not waive the legal requirement of a surety bond on the executor, which may cause the estate to incur the additional expense of a surety premium in order to have an administrator appointed. Another difference is that executors are usually granted certain powers under the will to transact estate business, such as selling real estate, which the administrator of an intestate estate cannot do without making special, often times more costly, application to the court.