At Antanavage Farbiarz, we understand how devastating it is when a parent, grandparent, child, or anyone you love dies. We respect your need to mourn. But, once you’ve had a chance to breathe again, we’re ready to help you administer the estate of your loved one. There are many key initial steps that we’ll review with you.
What are the initial estate administration steps after a loved one dies?
The first step is to determine if there was a will and to locate the original of the will. Often, the lawyer who prepared the will keeps the original in his/her safe deposit box. The decedent may keep the will in a safe deposit box or a secure location.
Once the will is located, our Berks County estate lawyers, explain how to probate the will. Probating a will means obtaining court approval that the will is valid. The probate court will also officially appoint the executor named in the will as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
If there is no will, then arrangements need to be made to appoint someone to be the administrator of the estate. Normally, a spouse or close adult relative will ask the probate court for approval to be the administrator of the estate.
What steps does the personal representative need to take to start the estate administration process?
The executor/administrator of an estate is known as the personal representative of the estate. The personal representative has the duty to collect the estate assets, pay all the bills that are required to be paid, account for the administration of the estate, and distribute the estate.
The main initial duties of the personal representative include:
- Defending any will or appointment contests. The personal representative may need to defend any claims by disgruntled heirs that the will is invalid or that their appointment is invalid. Our skilled estate administration lawyers advise the personal representative on how to respond to these claims.
- Obtaining a death certificate. Once the will is approved, the personal administrator needs to obtain the official death certificate for the decedent. The official appointment of the personal representative and the death certificate are normally required to access all of the decedent’s assets such as any bank accounts, safe deposit accounts, stock accounts, or other assets titled in the name of the decedent.
- Conducting an inventory. The personal representative will need to conduct an inventory of the estate assets. The inventory is a document that identifies the assets of the estate and their value. This document is then filed with the local court. The assets of the assets are generally the assets that pass through probate. Many assets such as the marital home, assets titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship, and assets payable on death do not pass through provide. Still, the personal representative often helps to formally retitle joint assets and other non-probate assets properly and to ensure the life insurance proceeds are paid to any named beneficiaries.
- Preparing notices. The personal representative must formally advertise that the decedent passed away so that anyone who has an interest in the estate including creditors can file a formal claim. The time limits for filing claims against the estate normally depend on the date the formal notice requirements are completed.
- Opening an estate checking account. The personal representative will open an estate checking account. All the assets of the estate, except those that are directly transferred such as the home, cars, treasured possessions, are normally sold and the proceeds are deposited into the estate checking account.
The personal representative will normally review many other issues with the lawyer for the estate including:
- How to handle any businesses the decedent owned. Depending on the will and other factors, the business could be sold or the business could be transferred to the heirs who have an interest in the business.
- How to handle the sale of the home. If the decedent owned the home with a spouse or another person, the deeds are normally changed to reflect that the surviving spouse or joint owner is now the owner of the home. If there is no spouse or joint owner, the property is normally sold and the proceeds are placed in the estate checking account.
- Identifying any creditors of the estate. These claims are either paid, denied, or settled.
- Explaining the administrative expenses. These expenses include court costs and determining whether the personal representative will accept a fee for managing the estate.
- Reviewing other documents. The documents include any trust agreements.
The estate administration lawyer also helps review many other factors depending on the will, the intestate laws of Pennsylvania, and the nature of the assets.
Contact an experienced Berks County after the death of a loved one
At Antanavage Farbiarz, we’ve been advising families about estate planning and estate administration for 70 years. We’ll guide you through each phase of the estate administration process. To discuss what happens after a loved one dies, contact Antanavage Farbiarz, PLLC, for caring competent advice.