How does someone become executor of an estate without a Will?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How does someone become executor of an estate without a Will?

My father-in-law passed away without a Will and the 3 siblings agree to have my wife become executor. Do we have to go to a lawyer to have his car put in our name?

Asked on September 23, 2016 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You have to go through probate. That means first applying to the probate or surrogates court to be appointed the administrator or personal representative ("executors" are only for when there is a will), which it will probably do if your wife wants the job and her siblings support her in that (the role typically goes to a child, if no living spouse). Then as the adminstrator or personal representative, she can gather all the estate's legitimate debts (e.g. legitimate debts of your father-in-law, of his final illness [if any] and funeral) and list all the assets, provide that information to the court, pay the debts, then finally, distribute any remaining (after paying the debts) assets according to the rules of intestacy (the law in your state for who gets what when there is no will). There is an entire process she and the estate will have to go through, and you can get the information about it from the probate or surrogate's court.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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