Court Bonds

Estate Administration?



When a loved one dies, their affairs need to be brought to closure, and the process of doing so is often referred to as estate administration. Read on for an overview of what to expect when the time comes to attend to the financial matters of the deceased.


Paying Debts, Distributing Assets

Ideally,  a loved one has made and updated an estate plan, which may include a will and or trust, communicated intentions to family members and provided important contact and logistical information to a designated personal representative who is prepared to administer the estate. Even when planning has occurred, there is typically a lot to do following a death, and of course grief can make the process of estate administration feel extra difficult. Absent a will and plans, of course the affairs of the estate still have to be attended to, generally as the personal representative takes on the added stress of acting as detective to sort things through, and ultimately follow state laws of intestacy to resolve the distribution of assets. Attorney Victoria Calcagno offers this overview of what estate administration generally entails:


Estate administration is the process of distributing a person’s (the “decedent”) assets after they have passed away. It also involves paying off any outstanding debts, including any estate taxes that may be owed to the state and/or federal government. Overall, it can be a lengthy and complicated process….Estate administration usually involves submitting the decedent’s Will to the probate court. The probate court will then evaluate the Will and appoint a Personal Representative (also known as an Executor) for the estate. The Personal Representative oversees the administration of the estate, files estate tax returns, pays off debts, and distributes the assets to the named beneficiaries. If the decedent does not have a Will, the probate court will appoint a Personal Representative based on who has priority under the law. Generally, priority is given to the surviving spouse, followed by children and other immediate family members.


Three Action Steps for Personal Representatives

In addition to tending to the relationships, funeral arrangements and other personal matters of the deceased, the designated representative is likely to find themself up to their eyeballs in paperwork and protocols in the days after the death of a loved one. Helpfully, attorneys at Burns & Levinson LLP  suggest these three early action steps for personal representatives:


The first step in estate administration typically involves creating an inventory of the decedent’s assets. It is important to assess the value of the decedent’s property as close to the date of passing as possible, so monitoring incoming mail and financial statements is often necessary.


Ensuring that the decedent’s property is secure is…crucial … .If possible, lock up the primary residence so important high-value items like jewelry do not go missing while the estate administration process is underway.


If the decedent received Social Security payments or other private pension benefits, it is important to call the Social Security Administration and/or pension provider to stop the payments. You should also begin to cancel subscriptions like the phone bill, credit cards, etc., as you see monthly bills come in the mail. You can also report the death to credit bureaus to prevent identity theft.


Fiduciary: Terminology and Bonds Explained

The terms personal representative, administrator and executor all refer to the individual designated to administer an estate. Application of the specific term generally depends on both the circumstances and state protocol. For example, when a will is written, an executor is typically designated, although in some states, such as Arizona, this role is referred to as personal representative. Alternatively, the term administrator is generally used when there is no will and a representative is named in probate court. Regardless of the terminology particulars, individuals designated for estate administration have significant responsibilities, and accordingly, are considered fiduciaries: they are legally obligated to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Given the seriousness of estate administration, bonds, referred to as administrator, personal representative or executor bonds are often required. Essentially, these fiduciary bonds act as a guarantee that the affairs of the estate will be carried out in good faith and in accordance with the law.


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Helpful To Know

Estate administration is a public process, so it is perhaps not surprising that personal representatives will find themselves wrangling paperwork–a good deal of it. For starters, it’s important to obtain several copies of the death certificate, as it needs to be filed in probate court. Utility companies, banks and other financial institutions are likely to require the personal representative to provide the death certificate too.


Estate Law Practice?

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