Estate Administration and Probate

When you pass, someone will need to administer your estate. This person will oversee all of your assets and ensure they are properly distributed. They may be called either an executor or a personal representative. They will be responsible for handling the probate process, usually with an attorney. They might turn to the attorney who helped you create your estate plan, and you can leave instructions in your will as to how to contact that attorney for a smoother transition.

Your Trusted Pennsylvania Estate Administration Attorney

If your loved one created a trust during their lifetime, then their assets will not have to go through probate but will still need to go through the process of trust administration, which your representative will oversee together with your named trustee (if they are different people) or alone (if you named the same person). If you’ve been named a personal representative or trustee, or a successor trustee, responsible for estate administration in Berks County, our firm is here to help you through the process.

Who Should I Choose as My Representative?

As with deciding who to name as your power of attorney1, it’s best to consider all of your options when choosing your personal representative. This person will have the challenging task of administering your estate after your death, during a time when emotions are highly charged, and family members might not be in the best frame of mind. You may choose your spouse, adult child, relative, or friend. Whomever you choose will be responsible for conducting all business on behalf of your estate, overseeing all real and personal property included in your estate, and paying any associated taxes, including your estate taxes and any property taxes.

Going Through Probate

If your loved one did not put their assets into a trust and had an estate of over $50,000, their estate will have to go through probate in Pennsylvania. Probate is the process of “proving” a will or proving the intent of your loved one to distribute their assets in a specific manner. If your loved one lacked not only a trust but also a will, the laws of intestate succession in Pennsylvania dictate who will act as estate administrator. First the deceased person’s spouse would be appointed, then an adult child, then their parents, and so on. The laws of intestate succession will also determine who gets what, unless you can prove otherwise to a judge.

If your loved one passed away without a will, our attorneys are here to help you through the probate process and present your case to a judge to ensure the best chance at an outcome reflecting your loved one’s wishes.

If your loved one had a will but left an estate of greater than $50,000 and did not place their assets into a trust, the will still has to go through probate. The process is simpler because the will demonstrates the deceased person’s intent and can serve as a set of instructions to the probate judge, but the final outcome is still up to the judge and having a Berks County estate planning attorney to help you in court is wise.

Trust Administration

Trust administration consists of ensuring that any assets in a living trust2 are managed effectively and ultimately distributed upon the death of the loved one who created the trust. It is a private process and does not involve any court, but it’s helpful to have professional guidance to ensure everything runs smoothly and in accordance with Pennsylvania law.

While properly constructed trusts will have specific instructions as to what happens to each asset held in trust and at what intervals any distributions will be made, a trust cannot administer itself. Someone needs to carry out the instructions. That person is the trustee or successor trustee. If you find yourself named as trustee or successor trustee and you are now responsible for administering your loved one’s trust, you will need to handle several matters. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Filing tax returns for the trust;
  • Calculating accurate valuations for all trust assets;
  • Selling or liquidating any assets if those are the instructions;
  • Distributing assets or funds from liquidated assets to beneficiaries

Contact Our Estate Planning Attorneys

Antanavage Farbiarz is here to help with any of your needs related to estate administration, probate, and trust administration in Berks County. Call us today at (610) 562-2000 or use the form below.