When a person dies, it is often needed to undertake formal procedures in resolving the estate. This procedure is called ESTATE ADMINISTRATION. Both state and federal law have very specific requirements which must be adhered to.
The word ESTATE describes the real and personal property and obligations (i.e. debt, contractual obligations, etc.) of the deceased. ADMINISTRATION includes actions and proceedings connected to the gathering of assets, satisfying of debts, expenses and taxes, as well as, the issuance of property to the heirs and beneficiaries.
Estate Administration – When is it Required?
An estate will most likely be required to be administered when a person dies having personal property or real estate which is not jointly owned or otherwise subject to a beneficiary.
An Estate is administered by who?
The administration of an estate is the responsibility of the Executor/Executrix or Administrator. The personal representative typically engages an attorney to ensure compliance with the mandatory legal requirements. If the decedant prepeared a will at some point during his or her lifetime, the will should appoint a personal representative, who is named EXECUTOR if male or EXECUTRIX if female.
In the event the deceased did not prepare a will, upon proper petition to the Orphans Court in the appropriate county an ADMINISTRATOR or ADMINISTRATRIX will be appointed to conduct the estate administration. The Administrator will normally be the husband, wife, or the children assuming they have survived the deceased. The persons permitted to administer an estate are determined by Probate, Estate, and Fiduciary Code.
What is Personal Representative obligated to do?
An executor or administrator is required to acquire the required legal credentials to enable him/her to take action for the estate. These credentials, known as LETTERS TESTAMENTARY (for an executor) or LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION (for an administrator), are attained in the county in which the deceased resided at the time of death.
Responsibilities of the personal representative consist of :
- Locating the decedents will, if one was prepared, and taking the necessary legal action to have it PROBATED. Probate is the legal course of action used to ascertain the legitimacy of a will.
- Locating and providing the proper legal notice to all heirs.
- Gathering, caring for, and protecting the assets of the estate.
- Paying the taxes, expenses, and debts of the estate. Such items are paid from the assets of the estate.
- Act in accordance with the state and federal law requirements.
- Issuing property to the heirs after all appropriate procedures have been abided by.
Do I need an Attorney for Estate Administration?
It is very hard and complicated for a non-lawyer to properly comply with the obligatory and neccessary procedures in administering an estate without the assistance of an attorney. It is the responsibility of the personal representative to choose an attorney for the administration of the estate. When there is a will, it is typically a courtesy to the deceased to employ the attorney or law firm who prepared the will for the decedent.
What function does the Will have in Estate Administration?
If the deceased has prepared a will, it is recorded in the Register of Wills, in the county in which the decedent resided, by way of probate. If the will is legitimate, its instructions are abided by in dispensing the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries.
What is completed in the Administration of the Estate?
Initially, all assets of the estate are identified and inventoried and occasionally actually collect. All beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will) are identified and located. Formal notices are required by law notifying all who were named in the will or have a legal right to inheritance. Expenses such as funeral, grave care, legal, accounting, debts, state and federal taxes are paid, and required tax returns are filed.
On occasion, depending on the complexity of the decedents estate, administration may require the management of a business or corporation for a short period or liquidation of a business or stock in a corporation. The sale of real estate owned by the deceased may also be required.
Estate administration can be completed bythe formal filing of an accounting submitted to the Orphans’ Court for audit or through and informal procedure by the preparation and execution of a Family Settlement Agreement signed by all heirs and beneficiaries of the Estate.
On average, estate administration may take about a year to conclude. It may take considerably longer to administer estates which are Large or complex.
Are there fees paid during Administration?
There are probate fees required by the Court which are typically based on a percentage of the gross value of the estate. Additionally attorney fees and Executor commissions are paid out of the assets of the estate. Fee arrangements will be discussed in detail prior to Probate with the attorney you choose to assist you.
Where do I begin?
If you have suffered a loss, it is recommended that nobody disturb any of the property of the deceased except if it is needed to save the property from harm such as being stolen, lost or destroyed. After the funeral, you should contact attorney discuss whether administration is required or otherwise necessary. If a will is located, the individual named as executor should provide it to the attorney.
For more information regarding estate administration call us. We administer estates in Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Berks, Philadelphia, Lehigh, and surrounding counties. Our attorneys are experienced and available to assist you.