If my brother died without a Will, what are my obligations if I become executor of his estate?

He has a vehicle financed through a credit union, was renting an apartment, and has a checking account

which I do not know his balance. He has 3 children, 2 of whom did not communicate with him much. I have spoken with all three and they want me to settle my brother’s affairs.

Asked on June 13, 2017 under Estate Planning, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If there is no will, you would not be an executor (executors are named by wills), but could be appointed the administrator or "personal representative" of the estate by the court, which is more-or-less the same thing. 
As an adminstrator, you need to inform creditors of your brother's death and give them a chance to submit claims; you have to "gather" his assets (find and take control of his accounts, property, etc.); pay his debts and final expenses from the "estate" money (i.e. what he left behind; NOT from your personal assets or money); take steps to preserve his property until it is distributed, if applicable (since he did not own real estate, this should not be an issue); then distribute any money or assets left over after debts and final expenses to his heirs, which--if there was no will--will be his children.
You don't have to go out of pocket to do this, but it can involve a fair amount of work. Without a will, his children, not you, inherit--why not let one of his children, who will be getting the benefits of his estate, also take this responsibility and be the administrator?


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