|When a loved one passes away, the estate often goes through a process called probate and thereafter estate administration. Probate is the process of “proving” a decedent’s will. If the decedent has a will, the will often designates an Executor to oversee the estate administration process. During the process of estate administration, there are specific procedures and requirements regarding collecting the assets, paying off obligations such as debts, expenses, and taxes, and distributing the remaining property to heirs and beneficiaries according to the that person’s will.|
If a person dies intestate (without a will), the Register of Wills in PA or the Surrogate in NJ, will appoint an Administrator of the estate, and the estate will undergo the “administration” process. Typically, the Administrator will be the surviving spouse or children of the deceased. The process of probate and administration are substantially the same, except that probate involves a will that identifies the beneficiaries of a person’s estate and administration does not. Without a will, the decedent’s assets will be allocated according to the statutory scheme of distribution per state law.
The Executor/Administrator must take the following steps to administer an estate:
- Notify the beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will).
- Take an inventory and appraisal of all estate assets, including personal possessions and real estate.
- Pay funeral expenses, debts, state and federal taxes.
- Distribute the remaining assets to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs.
- Close the estate.
As you can see, there are many required procedures involved in properly administering an estate. Because the Executor/Administrator has the sole authority to act on behalf of the estate, he or she also has a fiduciary obligation to the estate’s beneficiaries. Therefore, an Executor/Administrator may be held personally liable for failing to properly manage an estate’s assets.
If your loved one has died and you are an Executor/Administrator, contact the qualified estate administration/probate attorneys at Pfeiffer Bruno who can assist you through the estate administration process to ensure that all procedures are properly followed. Call us today in PA at 610-258-4003 in NJ at 908-454-7100 or email us.