Pennsylvania requires that a person’s estate must be administered within the guidelines of state law after their death. The last will and testament of a deceased person typically names an executor for the estate. If the deceased person had no will, the County Register of Wills office must work with the estate heirs to appoint an estate administrator.
The tasks of an estate administrator
The task of accounting for the assets of an estate, the payment of due taxes and debts, and the division of assets amongst heirs can be a challenging and time-consuming job. Given the personal burden of estate administration, executor/administrators are often entitled to payments based on a scaled percentage of the estate. Pennsylvania does not provide maximums for the amount of compensation an administrator can receive from an estate, though there are guidelines courts use to review an administrator’s payment. Before an estate administrator (also known as a personal representative of the estate) is permitted to divide and distribute assets amongst the estate’s beneficiaries, that person must fulfill the following responsibilities:
- Probate: This is the legal process of verifying and upholding the legal obligations of an estate before asset distribution. An administrator must pay off the deceased person’s debts and fulfill tax obligations before they can distribute assets to beneficiaries and heirs.
- Notification: All beneficiaries and heirs must be notified of the estate, with announcements placed in accessible news sources to provide due diligence regarding potentially missed heirs.
- Inventory: A complete list of the deceased person’s assets must be verified and collected with any debts or legal documents pertaining to those assets recorded.
- Paying debts and liens: Any debts that the deceased person owed, including liens on various property items, must be paid before asset distribution.
- Filing tax returns: The estate administrator is in charge of compiling and filing the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return and the Federal Estate Tax Return.
Finding support for an estate administrator
Even a reasonably simple estate can quickly become a complicated affair. If you’ve been named the estate administrator of a loved one’s estate, you’ll need legal support to maintain the correct documentation and legal observance as it relates to the probate process. Contact a lawyer with experience in estate administration to help you oversee your loved one’s assets.