Wrongful Death Claims And Probate
If you have tragically lost a loved one, either due to an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, or due to the intentional or malicious conduct of another, you may be overwhelmed by feelings of grief and confusion. The last thing on your mind may be how to litigate a wrongful death claim in conjunction with the administration of their estate. However, that is actually how the process unfolds. This can be a lot to deal with at once, so it is helpful to understand how a wrongful death claim is litigated in the context of the larger probate court process.
What is Probate Court?
After an individual passes away, their estate goes to probate court where it is settled. Settling an estate involves using its assets to pay off all taxes and debts on the estate. The remaining assets can then be distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate. If the decedent had a valid Will, the remaining estate will be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will. On the other hand, if the decedent did not have a Will then their estate will be distributed in accordance with the state’s intestate succession statutes. The person in charge of administering and settling the estate is known as the personal representative. When the decedent died in a manner that gives rise to a wrongful death claim, it becomes the responsibility of the personal representative to bring the wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent. The personal representative may be appointed by the decedent in their Will, or they may be selected based on state statute.
Wrongful Death Damages
A wrongful death claim is essentially similar to a personal injury claim, except that instead of suffering an injury the victim was killed. This means that they are unable to assert a wrongful death claim on their own behalf, so it must be brought by another party. As noted above, the personal representative is the party charged with bringing a wrongful death action on behalf of the decedent. If the personal representative is able to successfully bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent, the damages award will be added to the decedent’s estate. A wrongful death claim provides damages for all costs incurred as a result of the death, as well as for the harm that the decedent’s family will suffer as a result of their absence. The decedent’s estate Will not be administered while a wrongful death claim is pending. Instead, the estate will remain in probate until the wrongful death claim has been settled. At this time the damages award will be added to the decedent’s estate and the estate will be distributed to the beneficiaries identified in the decedent’s Will or those specified by intestate succession statutes.
Contact Fisher Law, LLC and Schedule a Consultation
If you recently lost a loved one, the dedicated Norwood estate planning lawyers at Fisher Law, LLC are ready to help you navigate the probate process as painlessly and efficiently as possible. Contact Fisher Law, LLC today to schedule a consultation.