Can a spouse settle an estate without petitioning to be the administrator?

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Can a spouse settle an estate without petitioning to be the administrator?

My brother died intestate about 9 months ago. He was married, no children. He owned a business as a sole proprietor. His “wife” has not opened an “estate”. However, she has been selling all of his possessions which are titled exclusively in my brother’s name- vehicles, ATV’s etc. Also, she is having a liquidation auction of all of the business property. The auction ad states it is for the “estate” of my brother. I don’t believe the wife was a partner in the business. Can she settle the estate without petitioning to be an administrator? My parents are heirs according to intestate law.

Asked on June 1, 2012 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Generally speaking, property held jointly passes by "operation of law" from one party to the next. But if the property that she is selling is only titles in your brother's name then it is part of his estate.  And underintestacy parents can inherit when there are no children.  You parents - or you - need to file a petition with the probate court to be appointed as the Personal prepresentative asap.  Ask for emergency Letters to prevent dissipation of estate assets. Speak with an attorney as well.  Good luck.


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