Pennsylvania Estate Administrators
An estate administrator is an individual who is responsible for the managing of a decedent’s estate after his or her passing. There are several key roles for an estate administrator, including filing the will with the court for probate, gathering the assets and property of the estate, ensuring that debts and the tax liabilities are paid, distributing the estate to the beneficiaries, and addressing any contests to the will distribution. While this seems like a simple process, this can quickly drag on for many years and require significant paperwork, travel, dealing with bureaucracy, and family conflict. An experienced estate administrator can help mitigate these problems and help ease the difficult issues that arise with estate administration.
Contests to a will
One of the most difficult points for administering a will is when a beneficiary, or potential beneficiary, contests the will. These conflicts can often rise to a significant level where the parties end up being forced to litigate the specific issue with the will. This will not only cost a significant amount of money but will take an enormous amount of time. An experienced estate administrator with the legal background necessary to understand each side’s assertions will be better able to reduce the infighting, resolve the concerns outside of court, and ease any further tensions and strife.
An estate administrator will also know what additional administrative processes are required. From filing the will for probate to estate tax documents, the estate administrative process is extremely convoluted. However, with an estate administrator from KM&A, you will not only remove that anxiety, but will find that you obtain much better results and reduce unnecessary stress.
Additionally, the estate administrator will be in charge of the day-to-day activities of the estate, closing out old credit card accounts, paying utilities bills for the properties still owned, informing government agencies such as the Social Security Administration and Medicare of the passing, and collecting any debts or money owed to the decedent. For those who are inexperienced, this can become in itself an overwhelming burden even before having to deal with the more significant concerns. An experienced estate administrator will be able to manage these daily administrative functions while still keeping the focus on what is best for the estate and meeting the decedents wishes. Investing in the experience and knowledge of a KM&A estate administrator will help you avoid the unnecessary stresses of estate administration and help ensure the decedent’s wishes are met.
Ten reasons to hire an estate administrator
Sometimes, people die without leaving a will. This leaves complications for the loved ones who are appointed as personal representative of the estate. An estate administrator can assist you with making sure you clear all the legal hurdles that must be taken care of to close the estate of someone who died without a will.
Reason 1: The executor wishes to avoid additional grief
Oftentimes, the person who is named executor is someone who was very close to the person who has died. He or she may not be emotionally able to handle the pressure of dealing with the estate, on top of the grief he or she feels over the loss of a loved one. An estate administrator can do much of the work for you, so that you are better able to work through the grieving process.
Reason 2: The executor needs assistance in the probate process
If you were appointed as executor, executrix, or personal representative of an estate, an estate administrator can help you with the probate process. Many of your loved one’s assets may pass through the probate process. While you can use trusts or insurance to avoid the probate process in some situations, there will likely be some assets that must pass through probate. In either situation, an estate administrator can save you time and money by making sure the process goes smoothly.
The probate process involves opening an estate in Orphan’s Court. This includes drafting several important legal documents, and dealing with the court system. Estate administrators are experienced with Orphan’s Court and know how the process works. After the estate is opened, there are several steps that must be completed before the estate may be closed. If something is done incorrectly, your loved one’s estate may be held open indefinitely, resulting in several negative consequences, including forcing you to file an income tax return for the estate every year or stopping you from distributing your loved ones’ assets to their heirs.
Reason 3: The executor wishes to prevent disputes among family members
It is shocking to most people how common it is that respectable families without proper estate planing or estate administration engage in vitriolic fights. At the very least, this resentment becomes an undertone in the family for years to come. At the worst, this discord has outright destroyed family relationships. Problems that are not resolved quickly and fairly can quickly escalate and threaten to derail the process of administering an estate. Unhappy with the administration of an estate, family members may begin a will contest. Will contests are expensive and often drain large amounts of money from an estate.
Reason 4: The executor wishes to avoid legal liability and mishandling of the estate
If you are the executor of an estate, you could be personally liable for foolish investments or wasting the money from the estate. The other heirs could pursue you in litigation to reimburse what they lost. An estate administrator can help you avoid anything that could cause personal liability.
Reason 5: A will has been contested and litigation is looming
During the probate process is often when will contests occur. Sometimes, someone believes that he or she should have received more out of an estate. He or she will bring suit against the estate and against the executor. You do not want to defend one of these lawsuits on your own. If you know that this is what your loved one wanted, it is imperative that you hire an estate administrator to help defend you and your loved one’s rights in court. If you do not hire an estate administrator, these will contests can get very ugly and involve long, drawn out court battles. If you believe that you should have been included in a will but were not, or that you should have received a larger portion of a loved one’s estate, then you may want to contest the will. Will contests are complicated matters, and an estate administrator can help ensure that your interests are protected and that you receive what your loved one really wanted.
Reason 6: An estate administrator needs to file an inheritance tax return
Many people do not realize that unlike the federal estate tax, there is no minimum for the Pennsylvania inheritance tax to apply. An estate administrator will prepare an inheritance tax return for your loved one’s estate, attempting to minimize the amount of taxes that you will have to pay. There are many deductions that you may be unaware of that an estate administrator would know well. In addition, there are many additional documents that have to be included with the inheritance tax return, and an estate administrator will make sure that you include those documents.
Because of the Pennsylvania inheritance tax, it is advisable for executors to hire estate administrators even when all of the deceased person’s assets will pass outside of probate. When the assets pass outside of probate, you will not have to go to Orphan’s Court. The Pennsylvania inheritance tax will still have to be paid, however, regardless of whether your loved one kept their assets in a trust. If you fail to pay the Pennsylvania inheritance tax and distribute all the assets of the estate, you could be personally responsible for paying the tax bill, including the extra interest and fees.
Federal estate tax returns are even more complicated. If you are going to have to pay federal estate tax (currently applied to estates with more than $5.25 million dollars in assets), then you should definitely hire an estate attorney as the litany of legal issues becomes very complex.
Reason 7: Survivor benefits may be available
If you do not hire an estate administrator, you may be missing out on additional funds that could be due to you. Your loved one may have had some assets that have survivor benefits, including insurance, retirement accounts, and Social Security. An estate administrator can help you identify where you are eligible for benefits, and will assist you with receiving these benefits.
Your loved one’s creditors may come after the assets in the estate. In order to pay off the creditors, you may be forced to sell off some of the assets contained in the estate. An estate administrator can help you negotiate with the creditors, or use legal defenses against them to stop them from having to sell your family’s home.
Reason 8: The estate is in debt
If the executor sees enough money in the estate to pay the outstanding debts then there should not be a problem satisfying those debts. Many times there are difficult decisions to be made about which debts are to be paid and how to avoid a lawsuit from the rest. There is a considerable body of law related to the order that the debts should be paid. The law gives some creditors priority and those creditors may sue the executor if they fail to comply with law.
Reason 9: The estate contains a business or interest in a business
The more complicated an estate is, the more complicated its administration will be. A non-professional executor would likely have no problem administrating an estate that contains common assets such as a house, bank, brokerage account, and personal items. However, an estate that includes a business will likely require a professional to manage, value, and transfer or sell the business.
Reason 10: There is reason to believe the will or trust could be invalid
A will or trust may be invalid on a number of grounds. This can derail the estate administration and cause years of estate litigation. For example, the person or lawyer tasked with establishing the will, trust, and power of attorney may have made one of many critical mistakes. The common ones are that the person was not of sound mind, may have been deceived or tricked, intimidated, or swayed by undue influence. If you have any reason to believe this may be an issue, there might be large exposure to estate litigation and personal liability. Such cases have happened in countless instances, and ensuring that the matter is addressed in court by a skilled attorney familiar with such matters is crucial. Your individual concerns will be fully reviewed and you can be advised as to the best course of action legally.
Fee Schedule Structure
At KM&A we are dedicated to giving you great service at a reasonable price. As such, for our estate administration services we follow the widely accepted fee schedule utilized in Pennsylvania that adjusts based on the size and structure of the estate. Contact KM&A for more details on how a KM&A experienced estate administrator can assist you.
Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC “KM&A” is a law firm serving all of Pennsylvania with our principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Call KM&A in western Pennsylvania at 412-626-5626 or in eastern Pennsylvania at 215-618-9185. KM&A can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.