, The attorneys of Newman Williams PC ,

Pennsylvania estates: Guidance for family member executors

Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience. Serving as their estate executor or administrator can add another layer of complexity to an already stressful situation. The legalities can be overwhelming for the bereaved, but having a clear idea of how to get started can help.

What does the role entail? Much, depending on the size and scope of the estate in question. Examples include:

  • Locating and gathering assets
  • Identifying and notifying beneficiaries
  • Valuing the estate
  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries

If you are serving as an executor, know that following the two steps below at the outset of your administration journey can help to ensure a smooth process.

Locate the estate documents

The first step involves finding the deceased’s estate planning documents, if any have been executed. A will is especially vital as it explains how you, as the estate administrator, are to distribute the deceased’s assets among heirs and beneficiaries.

Pennsylvania law dictates how your loved one’s assets will be distributed without a will, potentially jeopardizing their preferences.

Learn about probate

Probate is the court-supervised process of verifying or proving a will’s validity and administering the deceased’s estate. Oftentimes, probate is unavoidable and can take some time, but some assets can bypass this process. Examples include:

  • Assets with named beneficiaries (life insurance policies, retirement accounts, payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Jointly owned property, such as real estate in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (they pass directly to surviving owners)
  • Assets already held in a trust

Knowing what must go through probate prepares you to begin your administration role with a clear understanding of what the deceased’s estate consists of and your probate obligations, accordingly.

If you encounter any hardships or obstacles when fulfilling the role, don’t be afraid to reach for a legal helping hand. It is not uncommon for executors to face uncertainty during estate administration when in charge of a family member’s legacy and legal assistance can often be reimbursed by the estate in question.



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