The following is an overview of the basic duties of the Executor or Administrator of an estate under the laws of Pennsylvania. The duties of an executor or administrator in other states may vary in some of the details but the fundamental estate administrative steps are in most cases quite similar.
A review of these steps illustrate why an estates attorney should be employed to assist the executor or administrator in this complex. technical and detailed endeavor under the Pennsylvania estate administration law.
In Pennsylvania, where there is a will it must be submitted to the Register of Wills for probate in the county where the decedent lived at the time of his death. Where there is no will the next of kin must petition the Register of Wills to be appointed as administrator or administratrix of the estate.
Upon the successful probate of the estate, letters testamentary are granted to the executor or executrix or letters of administration to the administrator or administratrix will be granted by the Register of Wills. The grant of letters gives the executor or administrator the official and legal power to act for the estate. The act of probate gives notice to the world of the filing of the will. The will and letters along with any later filed documents during the estate administration are open to public inspection by anyone.
Many jurisdictions, like Pennsylvania, require that notices of the commencement of the estate administration be given to beneficiaries. Certification of such notice to the Register of Wills is required. Additionally, Pennsylvania requires the publication of the grant of letters testamentary and letters of administration.
The executor or administrator needs to discover all assets, re-title them in the estate name and make sure they are secure, protected and insured where required. In addition, assets need to be valued for distribution and tax purposes, so a qualified appraisal is often times required. This process may require significant investigation and attention that usually requires the assistance of an estates attorney.
Estate assets must be transferred to an estate account. The executor or administrator must obtain an Employer Identification Number so an estate account can be established and for the filing of various tax returns for the estate.
The executor needs to provide notice to the IRS of the fiduciary relationship of the executor or administrator or trustee of any trust established pursuant to an estate administration.
The executor needs to pay the various administrative and funeral expenses, and pay just and legal debts of decedent. He needs to retain an estates attorney to assist in determining the validity of such claims and expenses and to determine whether they are reasonable in amount and deductible for estate or income tax purposes.
These may include tax returns and taxes due on the following:
1. Form 1040, final lifetime income tax return for the year of death of decedent
2. Form 706 for Federal estate tax return
3. State inheritance tax form for inheritance tax return
4. Form 1041, fiduciary income tax return for estate income during each tax year during the period of administration.
5. Filing an Inventory with the Register of Wills.
An estates attorney is needed here to assist in determining the due dates of such returns, the choice of fiscal year of the estate and the various tax elections available to the estate.
Finally, once all of the above estate administration details have been taken care of and resolved, such as paying all funeral, administration expenses, debts of the estate, filing all required tax returns and receiving settlement and appraisement letters from the various taxing authorities, then distributions to beneficiaries can be made. Under the Pennsylvania estate administration laws, such distributions may require any and all of the following depending on the particular estate administration:
1. Distribution accompanied by and documented by receipts and releases signed by beneficiaries.
2. Formal accounting by the Executor before distributions can be made
3. A family settlement agreement signed by all of the beneficiaries as a requirement before distributions will be made.
The above represents a very general discussion of some of the basic duties of the executor. Remember, the “devil is always in the details,” as there are many technical steps and procedures that need to be taken in addition to the ones listed above. In addition, non-probate assets also may require the attention of the executor.
It is always prudent to retain an experienced probate lawyer to assist in this detailed and technical area of the law.
You need to consult with an estates lawyer to check for the applicable procedures in your state.
Hiring Steven was quite possibly the best decision of my life! Steven took the time to hear every single one of my concerns and address them in an extremely clear, concise and thorough manner. He guided me through the notoriously complicated and stressful process of probate with the utmost of compassion and dedication. Thank you Steven!
I highly recommend Steven J. Fromm for all your estate and tax planning needs. He has the most complete and thorough knowledge of current as well as pending federal, state, and local tax codes of any professional that I have ever been involved with. His ability to totally sort out your current financial condition and relate it to a plan to minimize your tax liability and allow you to sleep at night is without equal. He is professional, timely, creative, and an advocate for your needs, whether its personal or business. You can be assured that you will be well taken care of, with cutting edge/ sound financial and tax advice by Steven J. Fromm.
I have always found Steve to be very responsive, accurate and creative in legal matters presented to him. He demonstrates a good business sense. We have collaborated on several highly technical issues over the years. I look forward to our continuing relationship.
Steven has been instrumental in helping my partner and I to create a secure and satisfying estate plan, which meets or exceeds all of our wishes and contains contingencies for everything from medical issues to wealth management and living wills. In this process, Steven has also become a friend. If you need Estate Planning, Tax Advice, a Will or a trust, etc., we highly recommend Steven Fromm, Esquire. He will listen and be sensitive to your unique situation.
Steve is an excellent attorney who has provided help for my family personally for business, tax, and other services for many years. He is extremely knowledgeable and thorough, and is extremely good at explaining legal concepts to me in clear terms understandable to a non-attorney. It is difficult to pick only three attributes above, since Steve’s work meets most if not all of the attributes above.
Steve is an excellent corporate attorney who has a deep understanding of corporate law, taxes and estate planning. He’s been extremely helpful to me in keeping my many companies and business ventures organized, focused and squeaky clean. He’s very strong in estate planning and wealth preservation as well. Finally, his follow through is air tight and utterly dependable.
Steven is a trusted adviser. We depend on him for so many things. He is patient, listens to our needs and makes excellent suggestions. He is extremely talented. We value his advice and have recommended him unhesitatingly to friends and family.
Steve Fromm is a superb lawyer and I highly recommend him! After a terrible experience with a previous lawyer concerning an estate administration, I entered his office feeling very deflated, confused and discouraged. However, I left his office feeling enthusiastic and eager to get down to business. My situation was very unique, I needed his expertise for an array of things and Steve was able to address all of my needs. With a limited timeframe and an extreme amount of obstacles to overcome he worked meticulously, diligently and accomplished extraordinary results. His professionalism is incomparable and I am forever grateful.