If you die intestate, which means without a will, a court will choose a person called an administrator who’s responsible for wrapping up your affairs. An executor (ig-ZEHK-you-ter) is someone named by you during your lifetime to manage you estate after your death. The administrator may not be the person you would have wanted, and family bickering may develop over who should be appointed by the judge. Often, a neutral attorney who must be paid with estate funds is appointed. State laws vary greatly in this area. For example, most states provide an allowance to be set aside for the surviving spouse and/or children, whether there’s a will or not. These survivors take a specified dollar amount off the top of the estate before creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries receive their shares of what remains under state law if there’s no will. If there’s no will, many states also give the surviving spouse a specified interest in any real estate owned by the decedent (dee-SEE-dent). The executor or administrator files papers in the local probate court, proves the validity of your will, and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and names of individuals who are to inherit what you've left. Your executor must find, secure and manage your assets during probate. Depending on the contents of your will, the executor may have to decide whether or not to sell your real estate, securities or other property.