When a person dies, their estate must be managed and divided in a manner that is in accordance with the law. This process is known as estate administration – a complex legal procedure that can be difficult to navigate without a background in the law. Estate administration involves paying the deceased’s debts, performing an inventory of the deceased’s property and assets, dividing any assets among beneficiaries, and much more.
Understanding the Probate Process
In many cases, the estate administration process occurs in the form of the probate process. The probate process, in as few as words as possible, is the legal process by which the estate is divided. The probate process involves filling out and filing the right paperwork, inventorying the deceased’s assets, paying off any debts or taxes on the estate, and distributing assets that are named to beneficiaries per the deceased’s will.
All assets that the deceased owned on his or her own (and were not jointly owned, like the title on a house, for example) must go through the probate process. The exceptions to this process are any assets that the deceased held in a living trust – these generally can skip probate.
Estate Administration When There Is No Will
When there is no will, or even sometimes when there is, there may be disputes over how assets should be divided. The state’s intestate succession laws in Pennsylvania govern how assets are divided among a deceased’s relatives when no will has been created or when a will is not valid.
When there are children but no surviving spouse, then the deceased’s assets are passed entirely to the children. The same is true if there is a surviving spouse but no children or surviving parents – the spouse will inherit everything.
In the event that there are multiple surviving family members, things can become more complicated. When the surviving spouse and the deceased had children and both the children and the spouse are alive, then the spouse is entitled to an initial $30,000, plus the remaining balance of the estate; the children get everything else.
The laws on intestate success are complicated and become more complex if there are surviving parents, siblings, children from other marriages, etc. – the help of a legal professional is highly recommended.
What does an estate administration attorney do?
When handling the estate of a deceased’s loved one, an attorney can be very helpful. An estate administration attorney is responsible for the following tasks listed below:
- Requesting the proper documentation and paperwork
- Filing the probate paperwork with the court
- Establishing the validity of a will
- Resolving disputes about debt or taxes
- Resolving disputes about division of assets
- Inventorying the deceased’s property/assets
- Filing tax returns and pay debts
- Distributing assets
The above tasks can be very technical and time-consuming and can involve pouring over receipts, calling creditors and more. Both the estate administration and probate processes can take months, if not more than one year, to complete.
When you’re coping with the death of a loved one, going through your loved one’s taxes, financial history and assets can not only be time-consuming, it also can be overwhelming. What’s more, if any mistakes in the process are made, the process can be delayed, resulting in even more of a headache.
To ensure that your loved one’s estate is handled within the confines of the law, effectively, and in as timely a manner as possible, you need an attorney. At ARM Lawyers, our estate administration attorneys are ready to get to work. You can send us a message online or call our offices today at 570-257-4509 to get started today.