The administration of an estate is the legal process by which a personal representative, called an executor if the deceased had a Will, safeguards the deceased’s assets, pays the deceased’s final bills and debts, files final state and federal income tax returns, files a inheritance tax return, and then distributes the remaining assets as directed in the Last Will and Testament or as determined by the law of intestacy if there was no Will.
The personal representative has to make a number of decisions during the administration process. They are personally liable to the creditors and beneficiaries for any mistakes. However, they are generally immune from liability if they act in a prudent manner and upon the advice of legal counsel.
Many families will debate the necessity of engaging an experienced attorney to assist the personal representative with the administration process. First, families are frequently surprised that the fee quoted is quite reasonable considering the amount of work that needs to be performed and complexity of the administration process. Second, most personal representatives do not have the knowledge, experience or time to properly administer the estate without professional advice.
If you are a personal representative, it is in your best interest to take the time to meet with an experienced attorney before deciding to undertake your responsibilities without legal assistance.