Decedent's Estate Administration
What is a Decedent's Estate?
A decedent's estate is property owned by someone who has died. The assets must be transferred and administered with court supervision. The process of transferring a decedent's estate is also referred to as Probate Administration. In order to fulfill the wishes of the deceased, a personal representative must be approved and appointed by the court. This representative has various responsibilities.
Who Serves as Personal Representative?
With the presence of a Will, the named executor becomes the personal representative. Alternatively, an administrator is chosen by the family for an estate without a Will. An individual, bank, or trust company can serve as executor or administrator.
Responsibilities of the Representative
In general, you have the duty to report to the court, maintain and inventory property, and act as a liaison to the deceased's loved ones. With the help of an attorney, you can remove the whole burden of reporting to the court. Your attorney will make court appearances on your behalf, so you can focus on completing the other duties you have. For instance, your attorney can get you permission to spend the estate's money, sell property, make distributions, and overall, properly abide by the legal procedures.
In addition to court fees, you will spend your valuable time in court. Everything you do on behalf of the estate must be approved and reported to the court. Some examples are as follows:
- File the Will
- Send out legal notices
- Resolve creditor claims
- Provide accurate inventories and accountings
- Distribute assets
If you make procedural errors, you can become personally responsible for those issues. Depending on the mistake, this may expose you to law suits. Consequently, beneficiaries and creditors could sue you for breach of fiduciary duty.
The court needs to know the value of the assets, and ensure that they are being maintained. You will collect and inventory all the assets, obtain appraisals, pay bills, collect life insurance benefits, and much more. As an example with real estate, you will pay mortgages and taxes so that the asset doesn't turn into a liability. The court must approve any and all actions you take on behalf of the estate. Furthermore, you may need to defend claims made against the estate.
As part of your fiduciary duty, you must keep records of all money entering and leaving the estate. Also, you need to file all necessary tax documents. You report these records to the court, so that they are available to all beneficiaries and creditors. Any breach in fiduciary duty may open you to litigation.
You act as the intermediary between the deceased's wishes and the legal process of executing their wishes. Although these are not legal obligations, we believe communication is very important. Updating your family on the process helps provide closure. Your attorney can remove you from legal procedures, so that you have more time to focus on the personal side of decedent's estate administration.
The role of an executor is cumbersome. But, with our thorough guidance, we hope to make it as painless as possible. Not only do we want to give you peace of mind, but also time to focus on what matters.