Berman & Asbel, LLP

Administration of an estate

Pennsylvania residents who have been honored with the task of administering an estate may want to know more about the requirements of the process. The personal representative who is named in the will could expect to take a number of actions in order to fulfill the duties of the role in accordance with the decedent's wishes. In the event that the instrument in question is a trust, the role of administrator would fall to the trustee.

From the start, it is important to recognize that the assets are the property of the estate and must only be used in connection with expenses that are incurred by the estate or trust. Personal representatives and trustees are generally permitted to pay themselves for their time spent in estate administration, but otherwise, it may be best that each designated party keep personal funds and those of the estate completely separate. This practice could ultimately make it easier to successfully balance the final accounting.

In addition to immediately ordering copies of the death certificate, the administrator will need to establish a federal taxpayer identification number. The administrator may then either have to wait to be appointed personal representative by the court or take the necessary steps to establish authority as trustee as the situation warrants. Before any distributions to beneficiaries may be made, an inventory must be taken and a complete accounting be accomplished showing all estate- or trust-related income, expenses, distributions and receipts.

Required tax filings and appraisals are other concerns that may require the administrator's attention. Pennsylvania residents who have been named as administrators for estates or trusts and who have concerns regarding personal liability may want to seek counsel from an attorney who provides legal support in matters of estate administration. The attorney could guide the administrator through the process, and fees for the legal services could be funded by the trust or the estate.

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