What is Estate Administration?

When an individual passes away, their property and assets will have to be distributed. However, before this can happen, the estate must be administered. This includes tasks like ascertaining the worth of the estate as well as paying any debts and estate taxes. An estate is simply all the assets owned by a person, including their houses, buildings, businesses, stocks, shares, and personal possessions.

In some cases, the estate administration process can be quite complex, especially if the individual has a large estate. In order to help this process go more smoothly and quickly, some state legislatures have enacted the UPC (Uniform Probate Code). The code was first circulated in 1969 in an attempt to modernize and standardize the laws regarding estate administration. Although the goal was for all of the states to adopt this new legislation, only sixteen states accepted it at the time. Since then, the UPC has been updated and has, at least in part, been used by the remaining states.

Usually, estate administration takes place in the state where the deceased formally lived. However, there are times in estate administration when the property has to be administered in more than one state. For example, if the deceased owned a home or business in another area, those assets could be subject to probate in both. In the state where the individual did not live, there will be what is known as an ancillary proceeding. This is not as long or complex as a normal probate proceeding and only covers the local assets. Because of this, two probate attorneys may be necessary: one in the deceased's home state and one in the other state.

When someone creates a will, they may appoint a personal representative or executor of the estate to manage estate administration after they pass away. However, if they failed to do so, the first part of the probate process will be to find someone to fulfill this role. This is usually a close relative or friend, but may also be undertaken by a company or organization.

There are two types of probate that an estate may have to go through. Informal probate is more ideal as it may not need to go to court. Paperwork will need to be filled out by the personal representative and the taxes and debts will need to be paid. After this has taken place, the court will review the paperwork to ensure everything was completed correctly. Formal probate may be necessary in cases where the will is disputed or another complication has arisen. When this happens, the court is much more involved in the entire process and more than one court hearing may be required.

As probate can be costly and often stretched out over a long amount of time, it is beneficial to everyone involved to avoid it if possible. In some states, small estate administration is a possibility. In order to qualify for this tool, the deceased's estate must be less than the amount determined by their state. After any debts are paid, the beneficiaries may receive their inheritance by filing an affidavit with the court.

Probate can require a vast amount of time and money and can also be the cause of stress and conflict for surviving members of the family. If you have questions about estate administration and how it could help you avoid probate for your family, it is highly recommended that you speak with a probate lawyer from your own state. As the laws vary from state to state, it is important that your unique case is reviewed by a legal professional who has experienced in estate administration, probate, wills, and trusts.