Who handles probate and estate administration for a decedent? Pennsylvania residents are probably aware that it is the Executor named in the decedent’s Will. Many people consider it an honor to be designated as the Executor, but they do not fully understand the duties of the executor of a will. When these duties are explained, most individuals know that they will need the help of an experienced estate attorney to properly fulfill their responsibilities.
At first blush, being the Executor might seem like a fairly straight-forward job: marshal the assets of the decedent, pay off debts and taxes and finally distribute the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries.
However, this important role can be more difficult than most people realize. First, the Executor must be sworn in at the Register of Wills office, bringing the original Will and a death certificate. The Executor must read the Will carefully and make a plan with the estate attorney to carry out its terms. Beneficiaries must be notified. The estate must be advertised. The decedent’s assets have to be collected, which can be difficult, especially if the Executor or the attorney does not have a detailed list of assets. The Executor may need to track down safe deposit boxes, savings bonds or stock certificates, bank accounts or brokerage accounts.
From there, the deceased person’s debts must be paid from the assets of the estate, as well as inheritance and income taxes. The accounting involved can be especially complicated. A Pennsylvania inheritance tax return and an inventory must be prepared and filed. Once clearance has been received from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, the remaining assets must be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will. This can be a bit uncomfortable at times, as family members may not be satisfied with the amount of assets that they receive.
If you have questions regarding probate and estate administration or the duties of an Executor, you may wish to consult an estate attorney.
Source: FindLaw, “Checklist: The Executor’s Role,” accessed August 27, 2017