The person responsible for administering an estate in Pennsylvania is an executor, a term often used interchangeably with the phrase “personal representative.” This person is generally selected by a testator when they draft their will. The court may appoint someone to this role if someone dies intestate, which means without a will.
All executors, no matter how they assume their role, are fiduciaries. This means that they assume a position of trust when they take on the responsibility of managing another person’s assets or money, as is the case with the executor of an estate. The court holds them to high integrity standards. Any failure to responsibly carry out their obligations can result in breach of fiduciary duty allegations.
Your fiduciary duties as an estate administrator
One of the first things that you must do as an executor is file the testator’s will with the probate court. You must then proceed in taking an accounting of the estate’s assets.
You must then reach out to the testator’s creditors as well as their heirs. You have to open an estate checking account from which you’ll ultimately pay yourself, creditor, tax authorities and distribute any assets to the testator’s beneficiaries.
It’s critical that you file the testator’s final tax return and pay any outstanding taxes such as Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax. You’ll then need to pay the creditor’s outstanding debts before ultimately distributing estate assets to heirs.
Risks associated with not performing your responsibilities
The court expects you to preserve the value of a testator’s assets throughout the probate case, including from the time the testator dies until you distribute assets.
You put yourself at risk of having to personally foot the bill for any squandered assets or unpaid bills if you don’t carry out your responsibilities in the order or the way that you should. This is why it’s critical that you seek guidance if you’re unsure about the steps you need to take in your role. Doing so will save you from unnecessarily exposing yourself to legal liability.