When a person creates an estate plan, they are preparing for what will happen to their cherished assets when they die. In doing so, they often appoint another individual to carry out these final wishes. This person is known as an executor or personal representative. This person is responsible for taking care of the estate and the responsibilities that come with it when its creator passes away. This can often prove to be a complicated and time-consuming process. It can be beneficial during this time to enlist the services of an experienced estate attorney for assistance.
What is Probate?
The first step of the administration process after a person dies is to bring the Will in the estate plan to the Surrogate Court of the county they lived in. This allows the process of probate to begin. Probate works to determine the validity of a Will. When a Will is created, there are certain guidelines that must be followed in order for it to be considered a legal document. If probate determines that the Will is not valid, it can be thrown out. If it is valid, it can be approved so that the executor can move forward with their responsibilities.
What Does an Executor Do?
When someone is named executor, they often wonder what they are supposed to do and where to start. Simply put, an executor has three main tasks when administering an estate plan. This consists of:
- Identifying and Collecting Assets: The appointed individual must locate the deceased’s assets. This can include bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, insurances, and physical belongings.
- Paying Debts and Taxes: After a will goes through probate, the executor must identify and debts that the deceased may have. This can include medical bills, mortgage payments, car payments, and even funeral expenses. Once they are accounted for, taxes can be calculated. Executors often benefit from having the attorney or an accountant help. All debts and taxes must be paid before moving on in the process.
- Distributing Remaining Assets: After the necessary payments are made, the executor must distribute the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries.
Closing an Estate
In the state of Pennsylvania, there are two ways an estate can be closed. The executor can prepare a Family Settlement Agreement that details the payments and distributions that were made from the estate during its administration. Often times, this is the easiest method, as it avoids judicial proceedings. However, all beneficiaries must agree to this in order for it to occur.
Another way to close an estate can include filing an accounting with the local Orphans’ Court. This requires the executor to prepare a breakdown of the assets, expenses, debts, or liabilities of the estate. In addition to this, the executor should request an audit date. If there are no objections to the estate accounting, the executor can file a Petition for Adjudication.
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Friedman Schuman is an experienced and dedicated legal resource for clients throughout Pennsylvania. We proudly serve clients facing a wide range of legal matters. If you require the services of an effective attorney, please contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.