When someone that you care care about passes away, not only do you have to process the emotional pain caused by your loss, but you may also be responsible for managing their affairs. After a person passes away, a personal representative is responsible for managing their financial and other affairs. This person can be selected by the decedent prior to their death, or be appointed by a court. If you are beginning to manage someone’s estate, you probably have many questions about where to begin.
What Is the Difference Between an Administrator and an Executor?
If a person dies with personal property (including furniture, clothing, real estate, vehicles, financial assets and/or real property) and has a will, the will should designate who is to serve as executor, or executrix if that person is a female. More than one person may jointly be appointed, and in some cases, a bank or corporate entity (usually a trust company) can also be appointed to act on the decedent’s behalf as an executor.
If a person dies “intestate” (without a will), a court will appoint an Administrator to act as the decedent’s personal representative, or administratrix if that person is a female. This person is appointed by the Register of Wills Office (or Probate Office) that has jurisdiction over the estate. The office with jurisdiction is usually in the county and State where the decedent lived. The Office typically looks to a state statute that states who the administrator will be, going down a list of relatives by degree of relation—starting with the closest living relative. Typically, the spouse or adult children are first on the list. If a decedent was unmarried or has no children, then a more distant relative will be appointed. If there is no option, or, if there is some concern about a conflict of interest, the court can appoint an unknown person.
What is a Trustee?
A trust is a legal entity that “owns” assets. Sometimes a decedent will have placed their property in a trust; usually this is done for tax purposes. Trusts typically distribute interest income to one person during the decedent’s life, and then upon death, the principal goes to another (or the same person). The trustee manages the assets that are in the trust. So, if a person died and had property that was held in trust, the trustee will be responsible for managing and distributing those assets.
Duties of Personal Representatives
A personal representative has many duties, including:
- Gathering assets
- Settling business affairs
- Paying the decedent’s debts
- Filing tax returns on the decedent’s behalf
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Addressing outstanding child support payments
- Managing pending real estate transactions
Delaware County Wills & Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Draft Wills and Assist Personal Representatives
Getting your financial affairs in order is the best thing you can do for your loved ones, allowing them to grieve upon your passing without being burdened by administrative and financial worries. At Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. we listen closely to your concerns. To schedule a consultation with one of our seasoned Delaware County wills & estates lawyers, call us today at 610-565-3701 or contact us online. With offices located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we provide estate solutions for clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area.