The Steps Required to Settle an Estate in the Probate Courts
If you’ve been named executor or administrator of the estate of another person, chances are you have little or no idea exactly what that means and what you’ll be asked to do. While every state will have some specific rules regarding the administration of estates, there are some basic guidelines. Those guidelines are different, though, depending on whether or not the state has adopted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). The general process in states like Pennsylvania, which has not adopted the UPC, is as follows:
- Appointment as executor, administrator or personal representative of the estate—You initiate the probate process by petitioning the court to appoint you as executor (the terms administrator and personal representative mean the same thing) of the estate. You will need to file the original copy of the will, and an original death certificate, and will need to publish notice and notify beneficiaries/heirs. If the will does not exclude it, you may also be required to post a bond.
- You must then establish the validity of the will—If the will does not meet the requirements to be “self-proving,” you will need affidavits from those individuals who witnessed the execution of the will.
- To administer the estate, you’ll need to:
- Prepare an inventory of the assets of the estate, and obtain values on property, if necessary
- Obtain a tax ID # for the estate from the Internal Revenue Service
- Open an estate bank account
- Arrange for the preparation of final income tax returns
- Notify all creditors of the death and pay all final debts of the estate
- Prepare and file state and/or federal estate tax returns, if required
- To close the estate, you’ll have to:
- Notify heirs/beneficiaries of the date and time of the final hearing
- Obtain permission from the court to distribute property
- Transfer assets to designated heirs/beneficiaries (and get a receipt)
As you can see, the probate administration process can be complex and time-consuming. That’s why it’s in your best interests to hire experienced attorneys to guide you through the process.
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