What Is Estate Administration?
Administration of estates involves collection of assets, payment of obligations such as debts and expenses and death tax preparation (federal and state) and filing, and distribution of property to heirs and beneficiaries.
What Should Be Done First?
If you are involved with a person who has died, make sure that their home is secure and nothing is lost or destroyed. In Pennsylvania, other than a spouse, no one can enter a safe deposit box without arranging an inventory through the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. Shortly after the funeral, an attorney should be contacted by the survivors to discuss the deceased person's matters and estate.
The attorney will provide advice, determine whether administration will be required and explain what procedures will be involved. If there is a will, the person named as executor should protect the original of it and give it to the attorney at the first meeting.
When Is Formal Estate Administration Required?
When a person dies solely owning an interest in personal property or real estate, an estate administration usually will be required. In any case, death or income tax matters must be considered.
Who Administers An Estate?
An estate is administered by a personal representative. If there is a will, the personal representative named to serve is called the "executor." If there is no will or if the executor cannot serve, the person who does serve is referred to as the "administrator." The Register of Wills makes the appointment.
The personal representative works with an attorney in complying with necessary legal requirements.
What Does A Personal Representative Do?
A personal representative is charged with the actual administration of an estate under Pennsylvania and federal law. A personal representative follows the directions of the decedent, if there is a will or follows the intestate distribution requirements if there is no will.
The representative also gathers information about the assets of the estate and the debts, notifies the beneficiaries under the will or the intestate heirs if there is no will, pays all debts and expenses as well as death taxes, and distributes the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs.
Often, a personal representative also becomes involved with final income tax matters or assists in the processing of non-probate assets.
What Happens During The Administration?
At the beginning, all assets of the estate, including personal possessions and real estate, are inventoried and sometimes physically gathered. All of the beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will) are located. They are told that they were named in the will or have a legal right to receive an inheritance. Funeral expenses, debts, state and federal taxes are paid, and necessary tax returns are filed.
Sometimes administration may involve the short-term management of a business or stock in a corporation. There could also be sale of real estate, which was owned by the deceased.
At the conclusion of the administration period, a final accounting of all assets can be presented for approval to the county court or, in appropriate situations, to the beneficiaries for their informal approval and release. After approval, distribution of the balance of assets is accomplished.
Should I Have An Attorney Assist Me?
As a practical matter, it is very difficult for a non-lawyer
to adhere to all the required procedures in administering an estate
without the assistance of an attorney. Since the personal representative
has a fiduciary duty to all the heirs, if the personal representative's
errors cause a loss to a beneficiary, the personal representative may
become legally obligated to pay for the loss.
Attorney Kline and his dedicated staff have more than thirty
years of the experience in guiding the personal representative through
the challenging estate administration process, from beginning to end.
Attorney Kline would be happy to meet with you to discuss your particular
situation and assist you in settling the estate in a prompt and efficient
2011 copyright by Karl Kline P.C.