When you become the administrator of a decedent’s probate estate, you assume responsibility for taking the estate through the probate process and distributing its remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs thereafter.
The American Bar Association explains, however, that your main responsibility consists of acting as a fiduciary in all that you do. In other words, you must always work for the best interests of the estate and its heirs rather than for your own interests.
The first thing you will need to do is to collect and secure all of the decedent’s assets and outstanding bills. This will necessitate such things as the following:
- Gaining access to the decedent’s residence
- Changing the locks if none of the decedent’s relatives live there
- Collecting the decedent’s snail mail and filing a change of address form with the local post office so the decedent’s mail will now come to you
- Finding the original of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament
- Applying for copies of the decedent’s death certificate
- Applying to the Probate Court for Letters Testamentary so you can open the decedent’s estate
Once you open the estate, you will need to do the following:
- Inventory the decedent’s assets and file the written inventory with the court
- Notify the decedent’s creditors of his or her death and of the fact that you have opened the probate estate
- Pay the decedent’s outstanding taxes and bills per order of the court
- Manage the estate assets to the best of your ability
- Prepare and file a written final accounting showing all estate income and expenditures during probate
- Ask the court for permission to close the estate and distribute its remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs per his or her will
Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, the probate process could take a year or longer. You can, if necessary, hire an attorney to help you. The estate will pay his or her fees, as well as pay you an administrator’s fee.