When an individual passes, his or her estate is usually administered to beneficiaries. If the decedent dies with a will, he or she is said to have died “testate.” Within the will, the testator would have identified an executor. This executor holds the responsibility of carrying out the testator’s wishes as referenced in his or her will. At Friedman Schuman, we understand how difficult it can be to grieve the loss of a loved one, all the while trying to satisfy estate affairs. Our attorneys have the skills and experience necessary to guide our clients through the estate administration process. If you need a compassionate estate administration attorney, contact Friedman Schuman today.
Choosing an executor
When an individual decides to plan out their estate, it is important to choose wisely when considering an executor. Sometimes, to avoid familial issues, the testator may decide to hire an attorney to act as their executor. Whoever the executor is, their responsibilities remain the same: to distribute any assets that pass through to the decedent’s estate. Executors may want to enlist the help of an estate administration attorney to help guide them through the process.
Responsibilities and obligations of an executor
A decedent’s estate must be properly administered in accordance with Pennsylvania law. This can be a daunting task, as probate laws are complex and can seem like a foreign language to an inexperienced executor. Enlisting the help of a knowledgeable probate lawyer can help ensure that all responsibilities and obligations are met and that one remains protected from any personal liability. Some responsibilities of an executor may include:
- Collect assets
- Protect assets
- Pay estate taxes and debts
- Allocate assets to beneficiaries
- Provide an accounting to the court
- Close the estate
The responsibilities of an executor can be quite intimidating. The executor may have to coordinate with other professionals, such as attorneys or accountants to help wrap up the estate.
Probate is usually the first step in the estate administration process, typically commencing after an individual’s death. If the decedent had a will, the will and a certified copy of the death certificate should be presented to the Register of Wills in the county where the testator lived. If the will is not self-proving, one may have to bring the witnesses of the will to court so they can attest to its authenticity. Once all requirements have been fulfilled, the Register will give an oath of office to the executor, along with documentation to allow them to make transactions for the testator’s estate.
Closing an estate in Pennsylvania
There are two ways an estate can be closed in Pennsylvania. First, the executor can prepare a Family Settlement Agreement. Within this agreement is a detailing of the distributions and payments made from the estate. This is often the easiest way to close an estate because it does not involve any judicial proceedings. However, this process can only commence if all of the heirs agree. A Family Settlement Agreement is legally binding to all parties, but it does not prevent a party from asserting or pursuing a claim against the estate.
The second way in which an estate may be closed is to file an accounting with the local Orphans’ Court. The executor should prepare a legal breakdown of all the estate assets, expenses, debts, or other liabilities. Along with this document, the executor should request an audit date. If there are any objections to the estate accounting, an Orphans’ Court judge can set a date to hear the objections. Conversely, if there are no objections, the executor can file a Petition for Adjudication. Through this Petition, the executor requests permission to make the distributions and pay any debts from the estate.
Contact a Montgomery County estate administration attorney
Friedman Schuman provides legal services to clients in Pennsylvania for all their estate administration and estate planning needs. Estate administration can be complex, time-consuming, and intensive. As such, this process deserves the attention of a knowledgeable legal team. If you require an experienced attorney, contact Friedman Schuman today.