When a person dies without a will, the state probate court will appoint an individual to oversee the transfer of his property to any living heirs. This person is referred to as the administrator; it is his job to value all of the deceased person's assets and make sure all outstanding debts and taxes are paid before distributing any property.
Selling Estate Property
In all states, the administrator owes a duty of care to the decedent's heirs. This means that if property needs to be sold to pay a deceased person's debts, the administrator must take all reasonable steps to make sure assets are valued properly and sold for an appropriate price. Further, state law may specify situations in which the administrator must seek court approval before authorizing a sale. In Virginia, for example, if the deceased person died without a will, the administrator may not sell any real estate without a court order deeming the sale necessary to cover the debts of the estate.
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."