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Administration of estates refers to management and settlement of estates of an intestate. Intestate is a person who dies without a legal will. Administration of estates is usually done under court supervision by appointing a person duly qualified and legally appointed. The person so appointed is called an administrator. The administrator is responsible for administering and settling the estate pursuant to the state statutory rules of descent and distribution.
When an individual dies and leaves a will, the will often designates a living person to act as administrator of the estate. This individual is known as an executor. If the will makes no such designation, a probate court may choose an individual to perform the same functions; when designated by a probate court, this individual is known as an administator. An executor or administrator's general function is to collect all of the assets in the estate and then see them distributed according to the deceased's wishes.
The administrator of a trust is generally known as a trustee, while an estate administrator distributes an estate's assets according to the directions in a will. Both trustees and executors have a number of duties created by state statutes and common law, including fiduciary duties. Those with specific questions about estate or trust administration should consult a legal professional.
Where a person dies leaving a will appointing an executor, and that executor validly disposes of the property of the deceased within England and Wales, then the estate will go to probate. However, if no will is left, or the will is invalid or incomplete in some way, then administrators must be appointed. They perform a similar role to the executor of a will but, where there are no instructions in a will, the administrators must distribute the estate of the deceased according to the rules laid down by statute and the common trust.