What Is An Estate?
After someone passes away, whether from a wrongful death or natural causes, their estate still needs to be managed. This article focuses specifically on what happens with an estate in survival claim situations, when a loved one has died after suffering from a personal injury. As mentioned in some of our other articles, the survival claim is compensation for the deceased (decedent) rather than for the families. This compensation covers things like bills, pain, and mental anguish. Click here to read more about the Texas Survival Statute.
It's not very difficult to come to the conclusion that a decedent still needs compensation for his or her injuries, since even after death the person's bills, debts, etc. have to be paid. This is where the estate is so important in a survival claim. The estate itself is the legal self that exists after death; when there are hospital bills to be paid because of an unlawful injury, money from a survival claim will be needed to pay them. In addition, things like cash, bank accounts, debts owed, final income taxes, real estate, personal property, etc. are all part of an estate. Each of these must be closed out or paid in full, and someone has to manage all of these.
Who manages an estate?
Sometimes the decedent has already appointed someone as the executor of their estate in a will, who then has a fiduciary duty to execute their will. This is usually a family member or close friend, though rarely can be someone the family had not been aware of before. If an executor has not been appointed, a probate court will appoint someone, which would usually be a close family member, but may also be an administrator not named in the will. The administrator will not benefit from any of the decedent's finances, but is usually given a flat fee. Find out more about the duties of a personal representative.
Whether there is an executor or a personal representative, the estate must be managed so that the decedent's finances are dissolved. The following is a hypothetical situation that explains how an estate may be handled in the circumstance of a survival claim:
John H. is badly injured on the job by a factory explosion that could have been prevented. He is in the hospital for 5 days following the explosion, as the doctors try to save his life. Unfortunately, John does not survive the ordeal, and passes away on the 6th day.
John created a will 5 years prior to this event that named his wife Meg as the executor and heir of his estate. As executor, Meg is able to file for a survival claim on behalf of John's estate, and is also in charge of managing his other finances. Meg will use the compensation from his survival claim to pay his hospital bills, final income taxes, mortgage payment, etc. before she receives any compensation as his sole heir. For example:
- John's Assets
- $3,000- John's last paycheck
- $750-Final Tax Refund
- $200,000 for work injury claim
- John's Debts
- $1300-John's mortgage payment
- $40,000- Medical bills from injuries due to explosion.
Most estates would be more involved than this example, but as demonstrated, there are several factors to consider, and the remaining amount left on the decedent's estate (in this case, $162,450) will then go towards the decedent's wishes that were outlined in the will. In this case, since John left Meg all of his estate, she would receive the remaining balance.