The administrators.

Letters of Administration.



Whenever any person dies, leaving property to be divided among his heirs, and not leaving any valid will to determine the mode of division, the property as has already been said, must be divided on certain principles, established by the law of the land, and under the direction of the Judge of Probate, who has jurisdiction over the county in which the property is situated. The Judge of Probate appoints a person to take charge of the property and divide it among the heirs. This person is called the administrator, or, if a woman, the administratrix. The Judge gives the administrator or the administratrix a paper, which authorises him or her to take charge of the property, which paper is called, “ Letters of Administration.” The letters of administration are usually granted to the wife of the deceased, or to his oldest son, or, if there is no wife or son, to the nearest heir who is of proper age and discretion to manage the trust. The person

who receives administration is

The inventory.

Real and personal-estate.

obliged to take a solemn oath before the Judge of Probate, that he will report to the Judge a full account of all the property that belonged to the deceased which shall come to his knowledge. The Judge also appoints three persons to go and examine the property, and make an inventory of it, and appraise every article, so as to know as nearly as possible, how much and what property there is. These persons are called appraisers. The inventory which they make out is lodged in the office of the Judge of Probate, where any person who has an interest in the estate can see it at any time. The administrator usually keeps a copy of the inventory besides.

If among the property left by a person deceased, which is to go in part to children, there are any houses and lands,-a kind of property which is called in law real estate, to distinguish it from moveable property, which is called personal estate,—such real estate cannot be sold, in ordinary cases, by the administrator, without leave from the Judge of Probate. This leave the Judge of Probate will give in cases where it is clearly best for the children that the property should be so sold and the avails of it kept for them, rather than the property itself. All these

Mary Erskine goes to the Probate court.

things Mrs. Bell explained to Mary Erskine, having learned about them herself some years before when her own husband died.

Accordingly, a few weeks after Albert died, Mary Erskine went one day in a wagon, taking the baby with her, and Thomas to drive, to the county town, where the Probate court was held.

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At the Probate court, Mary Erskine made all the arrangements necessary in respect to the

She had to go twice, in fact, before all these arrangements were completed. She ex


Reading the Letters of Administration.

pected to have a great deal of trouble and embarrassment in doing this business, but she did not find that there was any trouble at all. The Judge of Probate told her exactly what to do. She was required to sign her name once or twice to papers. This she did with great trepi. dation, and after writing her name, on the first occasion which occurred requiring her signature, she apologized for not being able to write any better. The Judge of Probate said that very few of the papers that he received were signed so well.

Mary Erskine was appointed administratrix, and the Judge gave her a paper which he said was her

Letters of Administration." What the Judge gave to her seemed to be only one paper, but she thought it probable, as the Judge said “Letters" that there was another inside. When she got home, however, and opened the paper she found that there was only one. She could not read it herself, her studies having yet extended no farther than to the writing of her name. The first time, however, that Mary Bell came to see her, after she received this document, she asked Mary Bell to read it to her. Mary Bell did so, but after she had got through, Mary Erskine said that she could not under

The appraisment.

The value of the property.

stand one word of it from beginning to end. Mary Bell said that that was not strange, for she believed that lawyers' papers were only meant for lawyers to understand.

The appraisers came about this time to make an inventory of the property. They went all over the house and barns, and took a complete account of every thing that they found. They made a list of all the oxen, sheep, cows, horses, and other animals, putting down opposite to each one, their estimate of its value. They did the same with the vehicles, and farming implements, and utensils, and also with all the household furniture, and the provisions and stores. When they had completed the appraisment they added up the amount, and found that the total was a little over four hundred dollars. Mary Erskine was very much surprised to find that there was so much.

The appraisers then told Mary Erskine that half of that property was hers, and the other half belonged to the children; and that as much of their half as was necessary for their support could be used for that purpose, and the rest must be paid over to them when they became of age. They said also that she or some one else must be appointed their guardian, to take

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