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What personal representatives need to know about probate

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2023 | Estate Administration

Many people find the idea of estate administration and serving as a personal representative to be rather overwhelming. However, everyone who dies needs someone to handle their last wishes and outstanding personal obligations.

People who never expected to be entrusted with such a responsibility may have to step up to serve as the personal representative of an estate when someone they know dies. What do personal representatives need to know about probate proceedings in Pennsylvania?

Timely action is crucial

There are many responsibilities that a representative will need to start fulfilling as soon as possible. Securing someone’s property, submitting paperwork to creditors and communicating with beneficiaries are all tasks that a representative needs to fulfill, usually within a few weeks of someone dying. If a representative fails to act in a timely manner, they might find themselves accused of not fulfilling their duty to the estate.

Errors can lead to financial liability

One common mistake that representatives will make involves distributing resources to beneficiaries shortly after someone dies. However, under probate law, many financial obligations, including income taxes and credit card debt, will take precedence over the rights of family members to inherit from the estate. Representatives who do not fulfill someone’s obligations and improperly distribute resources could end up personally liable for the mistakes that they make during the state administration.

Personal feelings can’t affect performance

The personal representative of an estate may have had a complex relationship with the testator and could also have personal feelings about some of the beneficiaries of the estate or even the resources they need to distribute.

Representatives cannot let their personal feelings influence them to deviate from the estate plan or Pennsylvania state law. They also need to prepare themselves for the likelihood that family members may lash out at them out of frustration over their inheritance or over how slow the probate process actually is.

Professional help is often invaluable

For the average person trying to balance the demands of estate administration with their own life, it is incredibly easy to make a mistake that could lead to thousands of dollars in personal financial liability. Typically, the estate should help pay for a lawyer to represent the representative and ensure that the probate process goes smoothly.

Learning more about the obligations of personal representatives and the support available to them can benefit those who have accepted the responsibility of estate administration on behalf of a loved one.