When a person passes away, no matter how much estate planning they accomplished, probate to some degree will be necessary to sort through their assets and interpret their will or trust. In most cases, somewhere in their estate plan, there is named an estate administrator. This person is now formally in charge of overseeing the management of the estate as it moves through probate.
For many estate administrators, they have no idea what their newfound duties entail, probably because they never knew they had been given the title in the first place. If you are in the same situation and scratching your head about what to do next, check out this list of some of the basic duties of an estate administrator.
- Notify others: If you didn’t know you were going to be an estate administrator for your loved one’s estate, probably no one else did, either. You will need to notify interested parties that you are now the administrator, as appointed by the estate and confirmed by the court. Heirs, beneficiaries, family members, and creditors should be told first and foremost.
- Arrange the funeral: It is not uncommon for an estate administrator to be tasked with arranging the funeral and burial of the decedent. Sometimes close family members are willing to assume this duty, so it might be worth checking with them if you feel your plate is already full enough.
- Catalogue assets: Before an estate can be distributed, you need to know what’s in it. The estate administrator has to collect and inventory all assets of the estate. Additionally, appraisals should be completed while the catalogue is created so the true value of items can also be known.
- Repay debts: It might seem fairly harsh but creditors often get first dibs to estate assets before friends and family members do. An estate administrator has to identify all valid debts and sell off appropriate pieces of the estate to satisfy those debts as much as possible. If your loved one passed away with a considerable amount of debt, it could be likely that no one but creditors get anything.
- Distribute inheritances: When the debts are paid and the estate is completely catalogue, beneficiaries can start collecting their inheritances. The estate administrator oversees this process to make certain no one is cheated by another, or that nothing is left in the end without an inheritor.
Your Fiduciary Duty & Legal Assistance
In addition to the aforementioned checklist of tasks, an estate administrator automatically has a fiduciary duty to the estate. In basic legal terms, the fiduciary duty is the administrator’s duty to always act with honesty and good intentions, and to always do what they can within reason to follow the estate plan as close as possible. Do you promise to do your best and be a good person? Perfect – you have accomplished your fiduciary duty.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of the duties of an estate administrator, know that there is no law that says you have to go through this on your own. You always have the option of hiring legal help, and it is recommended that you do so as soon as you know you’re an administrator. If you live in New York, contact our Nassau County estate planning attorneys from Davidov Law Group for all the assistance you need. We have more than 25 years of total legal experience we can put to use for you, providing the know-how and comfort you require.