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Estate Administration & Accounting

Estate administration begins at the death of the decedent, not when the court issues letters of authority. The person or institution nominated in the Will or Trust or the person who would qualify and have preference as an intestate administrator, may (and often should) take certain steps to protect the estate assets even before the court issues letters of authority.  And if that person won't act, or acts improperly, the law provides that certain others may petition to protect the estate. 

Once probate or intestate administration has been completed and letters of authority are issued, estate administration begins in earnest.  During the course of an estate's administration, a personal representative performs four basic functions: (1) marshal assets; (2) determine and raise cash needs; (3) pay reasonable funeral expenses, legally enforceable debts, administration expenses and taxes; and (4) distribute assets in accordance with the terms of the decedent's will, trust agreement or, if the decedent dies without a will, the laws of intestate distribution.

While this may appear straightforward, there are many deadlines, court and tax filing requirements and due dates, release documents and agreements, and pitfalls that await the fiduciary.  In the course of fulfilling his, her or its fiduciary duties, a personal representative may be faced with over 100 different elections or decisions. Every decision should be contemplated and made deliberately as each decision may have estate, gift, generation skipping or income tax consequences, may affect the rights of beneficiaries or may disrupt or fulfill the testamentary intent of the decedent or cause friction or harmony among the beneficiaries.