When a relative or other loved one passes away in Pennsylvania, his or her estate must be properly administered and closed in accordance with PA law. A probate estate will be represented by either an executor or an administrator. An executor of an estate is named in the decedent’s Will. An administrator of an estate is appointed when there is no Will, when the Will fails to name an executor, or when the named executor or executors cannot serve in that capacity.
The executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate in PA is responsible for the settling of all estate matters. An executor or administrator is only necessary when the decedent died with probate assets. Probate assets include bank accounts, a home, rental property, automobiles, stock accounts, and the like. Non-probate assets are assets with beneficiary designations such as life insurance, 401k plans, etc. Other non-probate assets include those assets that are jointly owned with survivorship rights for the co-owner. Non-probate assets will pass to the co-owner or beneficiary outside of probate.
For probate assets, the executor or administrator that has been appointed by the Register of Wills is responsible for gathering the assets and distributing them to the proper beneficiary only after all other estate matters are settled. If no executor or administrator is appointed, then the probate assets cannot properly pass to the appropriate beneficiary.
Personal Liability for Executors and Administrators
Certain acts by the executor or administrator of a PA estate can result in personal liability. For example, if the executor or administrator retains assets that are invested in high-risk securities and the value declines, the representative could be exposed to personal liability for failure to act responsibly.
An executor or administrator of a Pennsylvania estate should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced PA probate lawyer for assistance with handling assets as well as other estate duties, including carrying out the intentions of the decedent and the statutory requirements for probate. A skilled PA probate lawyer can ensure that the executor or administrator of an estate remains shielded from personal liability for claims against the estate.
Responsibilities of an Executor or Administrator in PA
The executor or administrator of a Pennsylvania estate has many responsibilities that must be fulfilled properly and in a timely manner under PA law. The responsibilities of an executor or administrator include, but are not limited to the following:
- Ensuring that the decedent’s wishes are carried out
- Preparing, filing and paying appropriate taxes, including the PA inheritance tax and the federal estate tax
- Fulfilling notice and distribution responsibilities with respect to estate beneficiaries and heirs
- Opening an estate bank account
- Selling real estate owned by the decedent
- Filing an estate inventory
- Notifying creditors of the estate and other interested parties
- Settling claims against the estate
- Closing the estate
The responsibilities of an executor or administrator are numerous, detailed and can be overwhelming to anyone unfamiliar with Pennsylvania estate law. For these reasons, an executor or administrator of an estate in PA often utilizes the assistance of an experienced PA probate lawyer.
Estate Lawyers | Montgomery County, PA
The Martin Law Firm is an experienced probate and estate administration law office with an office located in Montgomery County, PA. Our experienced PA estate lawyers assist executors and administrators with all aspects of the estate administration process. Contact the skilled PA estate lawyers at The Martin Law Firm for a free case evaluation at 215-646-3980.