Estate Administration is a process that involves a wide range of duties on behalf of the Executor or Administrator. These responsibilities include collecting, valuing, and protecting the estate’s assets, making payments to creditors and receiving collections from debtors, the payment of various taxes, and the distribution of the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.
To learn more about Estate Administration, check out the resources below, or contact us to schedule a free consultation.
Former Steeler’s head coach Chuck Noll is famous for having once said that “Pressure is something you feel only when you don’t know that you are doing.” If you find yourself tasked with the responsibility of entering the probate process, you might be feeling a lot of pressure stemming from confusion and uncertainty about all that the probate process entails. Much of this pressure can be relieved by obtaining as much information as you can about the process ahead of time. Not only will this provide you with peace of mind, but it will likely save you time as well.
At the beginning of the process of probate, it is important that you find the following documents:
1. The original documentation of all wills of the decedent, including codicils or amendments;
2. The original documentation for any trust established by the decedent; and
3. Certified copies of the death certificate.
These documents are essential for the beginning of the probate process in Pennsylvania. With these critical documents, you can have the probate estate officially opened by the probate court. However, you need not panic if you cannot find all of these documents immediately. In addition to the above documents, its best to begin collecting the most recent account statements for accounts in which the decedent was the sole owner, co-owner, or trustee.
It will become important to obtain additional documents and information later in the process. Thus, while it is not essential that you gather the following documents immediately, if you should come across them while searching for the will and/or trust documents, set them aside for later use.
1. Information about any and all safety deposit boxes;
2. The decedent’s most recent income tax return;
3. Copies of all bills, debts, credit card statements, medical bills, and funeral expenses;
4. Deeds to all real property in which the decedent had an ownership interest;
5. Pink slips to any and all motor vehicles the decedent had any ownership interest in, including motor vehicles, boats, or airplanes;
6. Pension benefit documents, IRAs, and other retirement account information; and
7. Life insurance and/or annuity policies and contracts, including the beneficiary designation forms.
This is a simple checklist and it is far from exhaustive, but it is a good start for anyone needing to prepare for the probate process. Obtaining these documents can help get the ball rolling, and having as much information at the start of the probate process as possible can help avoid roadblocks down the road.
You do not have to wait until your loved one passes to have these documents together and organized (except for the death certificates). Alternatively, you can help ease the confusion for those you leave behind by having your papers organized and easy to locate. As with many aspects of life, communication is important, and being willing and open to having a discussion while there is still time can be very beneficial.
Michael J. Girardi
Estate Planning involves a combination of various legal instruments, such as Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, as well as Lifetime Transfers, Gifts, and Beneficiary Designations.