robert w. maher
Attorney-at-Law  · Partner with the Law Firm Dyer & Maher.
Estate Administration

Estate administration involves the probate of the decedent's estate and typically includes three broad actions:

  • Asset collection, inventory, and appraisal
  • Collecting and paying debts and taxes
  • Distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries 

After being appointed, the personal representative is expected to document all of the decedent's assets. This documentation is often referred to as the inventory. The personal representative must also inform the decedent's creditors that the decedent has died. If the decedent's probate assets are sufficient to pay the creditors, the personal representative will pay them from the estate. If the probate assets are insufficient, the personal representative may need to obtain court approval to determine which creditors should be paid. If there are any assets left after the creditors have been paid, those assets are distributed according to the will. If there is no will, the decedent is said to have died intestate. State laws vary as to how to distribute the assets of an intestate decedent.

The personal representative will also file any necessary tax returns. If the estate is owed any money, the personal representative may need to bring a lawsuit in order to collect it. If the will is contested, or if there is any other dispute over how to distribute the estate assets, the personal representative may have to "defend" the will in a probate proceeding. A personal representative has a legal liability to know what the law requires, and the representative may incur personal liability if the estate is not properly administered.