What is Estate Administration?

When a person dies, it must be determined what is to be done with their assets (their "estate"). Typically, a person has to be appointed to oversee the decedent's estate, and wrap up their affairs. They have several legally-mandated duties with respect to the estate.

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The administrator can be a person assigned to serve in this capacity in the decedent's will, and they are compensated through a devise in the will. Alternatively, if no administrator is named in the will, a person can apply to the probate court to be named as the administrator, or the court can appoint a public administrator, if no private parties are willing to serve in that capacity. This public administrator will typically be paid an hourly fee out of the estate's assets. Read more.


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Duties of an Estate Administrator

The estate administrator has several important duties. First and foremost, it is their job to ensure that all of the assets in the decedent's estate are distributed according to the terms of the decedent's will, or, if they died without a valid will, according to the intestacy laws of the state in which the decedent resided.

Of equal importance is the administrator's duty to ensure that all of the decedent's affairs are wrapped up. This includes paying the decedent's debts and liabilities, as well as any back taxes that they may owe.

If there are any lawsuits pending against the decedent, and they involve claims that survive the death of the defendant (such as breach of contract), the estate administrator will also have to defend against those lawsuits, typically paying attorney's fees out of the estate's assets.

If you are working on an estate plan, you should speak with the person who you intend to serve as the administrator of your estate, so they will be able to prepare to meet their duties. And if you are asked to serve as an estate administrator, and feel that the duties are overwhelming, you should speak with a probate attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process, and ensure that it goes smoothly.


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