When navigating a Pennsylvania probate proceeding, several terms are often confused, conflated, and misunderstood: Personal representative, executor, and administrator. When facing the responsibilities of managing an estate after a loved one has passed away, understanding the role and responsibilities involved is vital in creating a smooth probate process.
The distinctions between these three titles are minor but significant, but they all serve the same purpose as fiduciaries of an estate. This means they have a duty to be ethical and handle the decedent’s remaining affairs fairly and lawfully.
What Is a Personal Representative?
First, let’s take a look at the role of a personal representative. Generally, this is an umbrella term that also refers to estate administrators and executors. Regardless, their duties remain the same when managing the remaining estate and all of its assets. This person may be named in the will and then approved by the court, or in cases where there is no will or contestation is made, the Register of Wills, or a judge, may appoint such a person, giving them the title of executor or administrator.
What are the Duties of an Executor?
Individuals who get nominated as an estate’s personal representative in a will are usually called the executor. An estate executor is usually named before the deceased has passed away and ensures that it gets filed with the Register of Wills to begin the probate process. In some cases, the executor may not be next of kin but a lawyer, bank, or other entity. Regardless, the court will ensure the will’s validity and grant Letters Testamentary to the chosen executor.
In this role comes the significant responsibility of managing the decedent’s estate fairly and ethically. The primary duties one can expect to handle as an executor include:
- Submission of the will to the county’s Register of Wills
- Conducting an inventory and valuation of the probated assets
- Notify the beneficiaries and creditors as outlined in Pennsylvania statutes
- Pay validated claims against the estate
- File and pay the inheritance tax owed by the estate
- File and pay the remaining income taxes owed by the decedent and the estate
- Ensure all beneficiaries receive their allocated assets
- Possibly file a final accounting with the court
What Does an Administrator Do?
In situations where a person dies without a will in Pennsylvania, the court will appoint an estate administrator to manage their assets during the legally required probate process for this situation.
As far as duties, an administrator shares the same responsibilities as an executor in everything except validation of the will. This person will still have to notify all interested parties to the estate, including any owed payments to creditors. Conducting a thorough inventory of all probate assets and payment of valid debt claims will also be part of their duties, including filing the final tax returns and distributing assets according to Pennsylvania intestacy laws.
When Is a Probate Proceeding Concluded?
Regardless of your role as an executor, administrator, or personal representative, a probate proceeding is finalized once:
- Creditors get paid
- Taxes get squared away
- The beneficiaries receive their distribution of the remaining assets
- Submission of final notice to the Register of Wills showing duties are complete
- Approval has been received from the Register of Wills
Get Assistance with Your Role as an Estate Personal Representative, Executor, or Administrator
Acting as a fiduciary for a loved one’s estate can be daunting with the many legal steps necessary to conclude the probate process successfully. Mistakes can happen, which can make an already emotional experience frustrating and contentious, making the assistance of an experienced probate attorney invaluable throughout the proceeding.
If you would like to discuss one or more aspects of your role and probate-related challenges you are experiencing, speak with the experienced estate attorneys of Antanavage Farbiarz, PLLC. Set up a consultation and learn how our services can help you manage this complex process and avoid costly mistakes and litigation issues.