An executor of an estate must execute a will that the deceased has left. In the absence of a will, the administrator of an estate must follow a court ruling and the wishes of the heirs. It is a position of power that not everyone can hold; most probate codes specify that someone with a felony charge cannot serve as an estate administrator. The court has the discretion to rule whether someone is sufficiently competent and trustworthy to administer an estate.
The first duty of the estate administrator is to file a notice of the probate case in a local newspaper in the county where the decedent resided. The notice contains the date, time and location of the probate court hearing. The notice is used to alert any creditors or potential heirs that a person has died and that someone is attempting to claim the assets of the deceased. Anyone who objects can attend the court hearing and contest the appointment of the estate administrator.
It is the responsibility of the administrator to take control of the accounts of the deceased. The administrator must first contact the Internal Revenue Service and have a tax identification number issued for the estate. That number assists the administrator in working with the decedent's bank if the administrator is not already named on the accounts. An inventory of the estate's assets is conducted and filed with the court to ensure transparency for all parties involved.
Once an estate account is opened the administrator must then issue checks to any creditors. Credit reporting agency Experian recommends that an administrator obtain a copy of the decedent's credit report and notify all credit reporting agencies of the death. The credit report can shed light on any outstanding debts to places such as credit card companies, medical offices or hospitals. If there is real estate, the local tax authority should be contacted.
When someone dies intestate (without a will), the children of the deceased usually receive an equal split of the assets. After creditors and the court have been paid, the administrator is responsible for writing checks to the heirs and dividing any additional assets. Communication with the heirs is essential because an estate administrator needs everyone to agree if they will keep or sell property within the estate.
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