Dealing with the death of a loved one can cause you to experience a vast array of emotions. Your grief may seem overwhelming, but as the executor of the estate, you likely also feel a sense of duty in ensuring that your family member's estate administration goes smoothly. Because many responsibilities come along with this administration, you may worry about attending to the necessary tasks correctly.
Hopefully, your loved one left behind instructions in a will or other estate planning documents that you can use when it comes to distributing assets. However, acting as executor means handling more personal matters for the deceased in addition to ensuring that the necessary parties receive the proper assets.
As the executor, or personal representative, you will need to file the necessary paperwork with the court to begin the probate process. This process validates your loved one's will, ensures that the appointed parties handle the necessary duties and allows the court to review and approve asset distribution. In some cases, probate can run a relatively simple and informal course, but in other instances, conflicts could result in more formal and extended proceedings.
Other important paperwork you need to attend to involves the deceased's tax return. You have the responsibility of filing the last tax return if necessary and ensuring that any owed taxes get paid.
Part of your executor duties also involves taking an inventory of the estate. In doing so, you need to document the assets considered part of the deceased's estate. You can then use this inventory to distribute assets as necessary.
Additionally, you need to inform any creditors of the individual's death. If your family member had outstanding balances, you have the task of paying those creditors from the estate accounts. This step must come before distributing assets to family members.
In some cases, considerable debt may change the inheritances that individuals receive as paying those balances could drastically reduce the amount of money and other assets in the estate.
After attending to any debt and your other duties, you then distribute the remaining assets according to the instructions left in the will. During this part of the administration, the possibility exists that heirs and beneficiaries could potentially have issues with who received what property. If the problems do not get resolved easily, you may have to take part in additional legal proceedings.
Because attending to these duties alone can overwhelm anyone, you may wish to enlist the assistance of an experienced Pennsylvania attorney. This professional can help you with filing estate paperwork, understanding the will and distributing assets as needed.