Estate Administration is the legal process of managing and distributing a person’s property (referred to as the “estate”) once they have died. After death, a person’s possessions, including real estate, money, and personal belongings, become part of their “estate.” Estate administration is the process of paying debts and taxes and distributing remaining property to heirs and beneficiaries. The distribution of property to heirs is determined by the person’s last will and testament.
The process of estate administration can vary slightly from state to state, but typically includes the following steps:
- Filing the will at the probate court
- Collecting assets, which involves making a list or inventory to file with the probate court
- Paying outstanding bills and taxes
- Filing any due tax returns
- Distributing property to heirs
At times, an estate may need to be administered in more than one state. If this is the case, the state in which the decedent resided at the time of death will be the state where the estate is probated. Probate is often mentioned when discussing estate administration, and it can be a confusing process. Probate refers to the administering and settling an estate after a person dies. It is the legal procedure through which a court determines how to distribute your property after you die. Even if a will has been left, it doesn’t guarantee avoidance of probate. Most property has to be probated. The probate proceeding can either be formal or informal. An informal probate proceeding typically involves filing paperwork, appointing an executor (if one is not stated in the will), paying debts and taxes and distributing assets. A formal probate proceeding is required when a will is disputed and usually involves court hearings.