What is Estate Administration?

Estate administration involves the assignment, division and distribution of a person’s assets and property to their designated heirs and beneficiaries as well as to pay any outstanding debts to creditors. If a person creates a will, the will often identifies who will execute the will, also known as the will administrator. If no will exists, then an estate administrator must be assigned.

Each state has its own laws on estate administration. It is always recommended to contact an attorney if you have any questions regarding estate administration.

Read more about the Basics for Will & Estate Planning on our blog.

Responsibilities of an Estate Administrator

The administrator of an estate must be thorough in their effort to see that all property and assets are properly recorded, handled and distributed. Some responsibilities may include:

  • Inventory all assets
  • Probate the will
  • Collect all documentations regarding bank accounts, trusts, deeds and investment accounts and any other accounts
  • Notify all organizations, such as the Social Security Administration , regarding the deceased’s passing and submit death certificates as needed
  • Complete an estate tax return
  • Pay all deceased’s debts from the estate
  • See that any documentation needed for the transfer of assets is completed. For example, if the deceased person held physical stock certificates, the estate administrator would need to get a medallion signature guarantee to complete the transfer of the stock to the beneficiary.

The estate administrator will also need to identify probate and non-probate assets. Most persons, even those with a will, have both at the time of death.

Probate assets include any assets included in the will. Non-probate assets include those assets transferred directly, such as living trusts, life insurance, 401Ks and other retirement benefits, joint property and more.

Who can be an Estate Administrator?

Often, a family member, close friend, business partner or attorney is designated as the estate administrator in the will of the deceased. If the will fails to assign an estate administrator or none was assigned, a probate court will designate someone to execute the will. It may be a family member, or if no close family member is available, the court will appoint an administrator, a role referred to as a curator.

Important Estate Administration Documents

An administrator of an estate will need to find, file or acquire, and then provide as needed, any of the following documents:

  • The Will
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Living Wills
  • Death Certificates
  • Birth and Marriage Certificates
  • Contracts
  • Military documents
  • Records of Ownership (Deeds, Titles, Bonds, Stock Certificates, etc...)

Related Topics:

Small Estate Affidavit