When you become the administrator of someone’s probate estate, you take on significant responsibilities. The most important thing, as pointed out by the American Bar Association, is to remember that you must act as a fiduciary in everything you do. In other words, you must always act in the best interests of the estate and its heirs, not in your own best interests.
Initially, you will need to do the following:
- Secure the deceased’s property, possibly including changing the locks at his or her home
- Collect his or her mail and submit a change of address form at the local post office so the deceased’s mail will come to you in the future
- Find the original of the deceased’s Last Will and Testament
- Obtain several certified copies of the deceased’s death certificate
The extent of your administrator duties will depend on the size and complexity of the deceased’s estate. In general, however, you can expect to do the following:
- File a Petition for Letters Testamentary with your county’s probate court
- Inventory the decedent’s assets and file your written inventory with the court
- Notify the decedent’s creditors of his or her death and the opening of his or her probate estate
- Manage the estate’s assets, paying creditors and taxes when ordered by the court
- If necessary, sell some estate assets or make investments sufficient to pay all allowed bills and expenses
- Keep a running account of all estate income and outflow activities
Ultimately you will turn your worksheet into a final estate accounting and file it with the court, along with a Petition to Close Estate. Once granted, you then disburse the estate’s remaining assets to the heirs as specified in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.
If you need help fulfilling any of your duties, you can hire an attorney. The estate will pay his or her attorney’s fee, as well as paying you an executor’s fee.