An estate is created after a person’s death. The estate actually becomes the owner of the assets which comprise the probate estate. The probate estate consists of those assets which pass to the decedent's heirs either by virtue of the decedent's Will, or, where there is no Will, by the state's laws of intestacy. The estate acts as the vehicle which gathers the decedent's assets and insures that the assets are distributed to the heirs of the estate.
The representative of the estate is the Executor, who is usually appointed by the Will of the decedent. If there is no Will, the estate representative is called the Administrator. It is the job of the Executor or the Administrator to gather the estate assets, make sure all of the decedent's bills incurred prior to death are paid, make sure all expenses incurred in conjunction with the decedent's burial are paid, insure all estate and death or inheritance taxes are paid, and, finally, to distribute to the heirs of the estate their bequests pursuant to the decedent's Will, or, in the event there is no Will, to those entitled to the assets under state law. In order to insure that he or she is able to properly carry out his or her duties, the Executor should file the decedent's Will in the local Register of Wills office as soon as possible after the decedent's death and burial. The earlier the Will is filed and the estate opened, the more quickly the Executor or Administrator is able to actually obtain the estate assets and protect them.
Death or inheritance taxes must be paid within nine months of the date of death. After confirmation of payment of death taxes from the state, and, for larger estates, the federal government, the Executor or Administrator may then make distribution of the estate assets to the estate beneficiaries. A release should be obtained from each beneficiary upon receipt of that beneficiary's share of the estate. In more complicated estates, a formal accounting may be necessary before distribution to the beneficiaries.
If you have any questions concerning the need to open an estate or your duties as an estate Executor or Administrator, contact us. At Needle Law we handle estates for clients in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Stroudsburg, Honesdale, Tunkhannock, Montrose, Milford and all of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties.