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Frequently Asked Questions - Estates

Frequently Asked Questions - Estates

Q:  What does a personal representative do?
A:  An executor or administrator must obtain the necessary legal documents to enable him or her to act for the estate.  These documents, called letters Testamentary (executor) or Letters of Administration (administrator), are obtained through the Register of Wills in the county in which the deceased person lived at the time of death.
The duties of a personal representative include:
     * Finding the will and having it probated
     * Locating and protecting the assets of the estate
     * Finding and notifying heirs
     * Paying debts, expenses, and taxes of the estate from its assets
     * Complying with State and Federal laws
      * Distributing property to the heirs after all procedures are followed

Q:  What is done during administration?
A:  At the beginning, all assets of the estate, including personal possessions and real estate, are inventoried and sometimes physically gathered.  All the beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will) are located.  They are told that they are named in the will or have a legal right to receive an inheritance.  Funeral expenses, debts, state and federal taxes are paid, necessary tax returns are filed.  At the conclusion of the administration period, a final accounting of all assets is presented for approval to the county court.  After approval, distribution of the balance of assets is accomplished.

Q:  What is estate administration?
A:  When an individual dies, it is often necessary to follow formal procedures in settling an estate.  This process is called estate administration.  Requirements are established by state and federal laws, which must be followed.  Administration includes procedures and requirements relating to collecting of assets, satisfying of obligations such as debts, expenses and taxes, and distributing property to the heirs and beneficiaries.

Q:  What should be done first?
A:  If someone close to you had died, it is suggested that nothing be done to disturb any of the property of the deceased unless it is necessary to protect it from being lost or destroyed.  Shortly after the funeral, an attorney should be contacted to discuss the matter with those close to the deceased.  The lawyer will provide advice, determine whether administration will be required, explain what procedures will be involved.  If a will is found, the person named as executor should protect the will and give it to the attorney at the first consultation.

Q:  Who administers an estate?
A:  A personal representative is the individual charged with the administration of an estate.  If an individual has executed a will during his or her lifetime, the will should designate the personal representative, who is called an executor.  If the deceased person did not have a will, an administrator will be to handle the estate.  Law establishes the individuals entitled to administer an estate.