A wrongful death case has an executor appointed for estate administration including the filing of complaint for personal injury on behalf of the deceased. This is not a straightforward process like it seems, in fact, it can be much more complicated than you think. There are many issues to consider including, but not limited to:
1. Who has taken the executor role? The will may have a chosen executor or the court may decide who will manage the estate, but either way, the decision should be considered carefully. It is not an easy job and if someone takes it on who cannot handle it and must be replaced, then the entire process will have to start over and that costs more time and more money. It will be a major inconvenience on the family, so they will have to be sure that the appointed person is the right person for the job before moving forward with the process.
2. Who Can Benefit from a Survival Claim in a Wrongful Death Case? If a will is left behind by the deceased, then the survival claim is added to the estate. The proceeds are then distributed based on the terms described in the will. If there is no will then the estate will be subject to state intestacy laws during the probate process. These rules are extremely variant between states. Each intestate share depends on the familial relationship to the deceased, prioritizing spouse and children. Anything left over goes to parents of the deceased.
3. The Process of Administration. Administration duties are straightforward but that doesn’t make them any less complicated to execute. Some duties include but are not limited to:
- Initiate the Probate process and provide Letters of Administration
- Prepare the estate inventory of assets
- Receive and report the Date of Death valuations
- File the Final Inheritance tax return as well at the final income tax return
- Dispense the assets as assigned and contact any and all heirs to notify them of the wrongful death and/or probate case.
It is worth noting that the executor of the estate can initially deny the responsibility or resign if they feel they are not up to the task to administer these responsibilities. If you are an executor or you would like to challenge the appointment, you must appeal to the court at any time during the process if you have just cause.
Hiring an Attorney
Whether you are pursuing wrongful death or merely dealing with probate, you should seek legal assistance to handle your affairs. Just like you would need one to plan your estate, you will also need one to help navigate the difficult duties of an executor and to help you with court procedures. Contact an experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer Fort Collins, CO residents trust for legal counsel!
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cannon Hadfield Stieben & Doutt, LLC for their insight into wrongful death.