Once a person passes away, the estate administration process begins. If the deceased individual had a will which dictated how they wanted to divide their estate, it must be submitted for probate. It may be difficult to handle the affairs of a family member that has recently passed away, but experienced Chester County estate administration and probate attorneys are here for you.
For over 80 years, the attorneys at Herr Potts and Potts have provided clients with superior service and cost-effective counsel. We are here to ensure the estate administration of your family member goes as smoothly as possible. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us at (610) 254-0114 or reach us online.
How to Administer an Estate
Estate administration primarily involves the distribution of real or personal property left behind by a deceased individual (decedent). Estate administration also wraps up any final affairs of the decedent like payment of debts and taxes.
If the decedent has a valid will when they die, the will can be submitted for probate. Probate is the process where a decedent’s estate is divided in accordance with their will. If the decedent died without a will, otherwise known as dying intestate, the probate process can still be completed. If a decedent dies with a will, the property named in the document will be distributed to the named beneficiaries. Pennsylvania does not put a limit on the number of beneficiaries that can be named in a will. If the decedent dies without a will, their property will be distributed using Pennsylvania’s laws of intestacy.
If a person dies intestate, Pennsylvania’s intestacy law will likely distribute their property to their surviving spouse or children first. If the decedent did not have a spouse or children, the property would pass to another close family member like a parent. However, intestacy law does not consider the special needs of any of the decedent’s family members and will not provide for them specifically because of their special needs status. It is also important to note that if you die intestate, it is possible for your estate to end up in the hands of estranged relatives if no other family members can inherit the property.
A decedent’s will usually names a personal representative. The personal representative is responsible for administering the decedent’s estate. To begin the estate administration process, the personal representative must use the decedent’s death certificate to file a Petition for Grant of Letters with their local Register of Wills. If there is a will, it must be verified as valid by the court. This can be accomplished if the will is notarized or with the help of two witnesses who can verify the decedent’s signature.
Duties of a Personal Representative
A personal representative is responsible for completing several tasks to wrap up a decedent’s estate. One of the first tasks a representative must complete is collecting all of the assets of the decedent. The personal representative must protect these assets to ensure they are not lost or stolen during the administration process.
The personal representative is also responsible for notifying all interested parties of the decedent’s death. Interested parties will likely include any creditors of the decedent and beneficiaries named in the will. Notification can be given to creditors by advertising the decedent’s estate in a legal newspaper and a general circulation newspaper for three consecutive weeks. The advertisement must name the decedent, the personal representative, and the attorney for the personal representative. Beneficiaries of the will can be notified within 3 months of filing a petition with the Register of Wills.
Another important task that personal representatives have is paying outstanding debts and expenses of the decedent. If the decedent’s estate cannot cover the costs of their debt, the personal representative must prioritize which costs are handled. Any costs incurred in the administration of the estate should be paid first. Afterward, the personal representative should handle the costs of the decedent’s funeral and any expenses for medical treatment given to the decedent within six months of their death. After prioritizing those expenses, the personal representative can use the rest of the estate to handle any other outstanding claims.
A personal representative is responsible for many other tasks that are not listed above. If you wish to know more, you should consult with an experienced elder law lawyer.
Chester County Probate Lawyers Can Help You Administer an Estate
If you need assistance administering the estate of your family member, you should contact an experienced Chester County estate administration and probate lawyer today. The legal team at Herr Potts and Potts have extensive experience when handling complex estate administration matters. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us at (610) 254-0114.