Estate administration provides for the orderly distribution of real and personal property owned by a decedent. More specifically, any property which the decedent owned or in which the decedent had an interest at the time of death is collected into the estate and distributed to those entitled to it after all debts and expenses have been paid. The process of administering a decedent‘s estate is referred to as “probate,” and is generally supervised by the probate court. A personal representative is the person or entity charged with the responsibility of administering a decedent’s estate (Cal. Prob. Code § 58(a)). A personal representative is either:
- An executor (executrix) who is named in a will; or
- An administrator (administratrix) who is appointed by the court when there is no will, when the will does not name an executor or when the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve.
The personal representative is charged with the fiduciary responsibility of gathering the assets and paying the debts of the decedent in such a way that the beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent receive the maximum inheritance. The personal representative usually will hire an estate attorney to handle the legal aspects of the probate. Most business dealings are through the estate attorney.