The death of a loved one or family member often means that after the remembrances of a funeral are completed, there is an estate to administer. You may be picked for this job. You may have little idea of what is involved. Fear not – when you are done reading this, you will at least have a few clues.
The “estate” of a deceased person is a legal entity, much like a corporation, which exists with a separate legal existence. Unlike a corporation, which may last indefinitely, an estate is intended to last only so long as is necessary to conclude the process of administration.
This can be as short as a few months, as long as years, but sooner or later, it ought to be concluded. Administration of a decedent’s estate in Pennsylvania is straightforward in theory and only complicated by the details that are generally not difficult to resolve but require some experience to conclude efficiently.
The stages of estate administration include obtaining legal authority to act by visiting the Register of Wills; being presented as an executor or personal representative and obtaining short certificates; obtaining financial records, ending various billing charges like cable; paying bills, obligations, and obtaining paperwork in general to understand the outstanding issues of the estate; obtaining an EIN number for the estate and opening an estate checking account; liquidating assets and depositing them in the estate account; obtaining date of death balances, clearing debts of the decedent if there are adequate funds; contacting financial institutions and insurance companies; making initial estimates to prepay inheritance tax for the discount; publishing legal notices to start the statute of limitations running on creditor claims against the estate; obtaining new property insurance if there is real estate which is no longer occupied; obtaining realtor assistance to list and sell real estate; liquidating other assets; notifying beneficiaries and filing certain paperwork with the Register of Wills or Orphans Court; preparing an informal accounting; filing a final inheritance tax return; making distributions to beneficiaries; obtaining legal releases from the beneficiaries; preparing and filing a family settlement agreement or presenting an accounting to the Orphans Court; obtaining professional assistance to deal with outstanding income tax obligations, if any; and taking care of the many other details of estate administration.