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What Is an Administrator?

An administrator for an estate is an agent of the probate court who is responsible for handling the finances, assets, liabilities, and estate of the individual who has died during the probate process. The probate process involves validating the will if there is one and distributing the deceased’s assets according to either the will or state law. 

The administrator is responsible for organizing all the various parts of the deceased's estate. This includes tasks like settling outstanding debts, expenses, or other financial obligations. Many of these tasks are similar to tasks assigned to an executor.

The difference between an executor and an administrator is less in what they do and more in how they are appointed. An executor is explicitly named by the deceased in their will. An estate administrator is appointed by the probate court if someone dies without a will. Both executors and administrators are under the jurisdiction of the probate court and must report back to them.

Executors generally have more discretion and power when distributing assets since they are appointed by the deceased and are following the instructions and responsibilities described in the will. In contrast, administrators have less discretion in the distribution of assets since they are bound by state law and have no special instruction from the deceased.

Key Takeaways

  • An administrator is a court-appointed individual who is responsible for handling the estate of a deceased individual.
  • Administrators are usually appointed by a probate court after an individual dies without a will.
  • The administrator of an estate is responsible for settling debts, expenses, and all financial obligations.
  • If you want to establish a will to prevent an administrator from settling your final affairs, an experienced Trusts & Estates attorney may be able to work with you to craft a will with experience and expert knowledge.

Administrators, Trusts, and Estates

Once an individual passes away, the first steps an administrator must take involves the collection of information. The administrator must discover as much asset information as they can. This includes finding out what was owned by the deceased, who holds titles for what assets, and discovering whether there is a will to dictate any future decisions.

The exact role of the Administrator is limited by state law and will vary with the size of the Estate. If an administrator is responsible for an individual with no will in place, their responsibilities may include:

  • Obtaining death certificates from a coroner, hospital, or medical examiner’s office
  • Contacting the heirs and beneficiaries  of the deceased about the Estate
  • Notifying Social Security of the deceased’s passing if they were receiving benefits at the time of death
  • Gathering all physical belongings, financial assets, and bank account information
  • Requesting life insurance policies be paid out to the estate of the deceased
  • Taking inventory of any outstanding debts, bills, or expenses the deceased owed
  • Filing an inventory of all the deceased’s assets and liabilities with the probate court
  • Issuing a notice to all debtors and creditors of the deceased’s passing
  • Settling any debts and collecting any money owed to the deceased by the notified debtors or creditors
  • Filing state and federal tax returns for the Estate of the deceased
  • Distributing the assets and property according to the either the will of the deceased or state law

In most cases, the responsibilities and services of the administrator will be determined by state law. In return for their services, administrators will take a percentage out of the estate. This fee will be determined on a state-by-state basis by the probate court. 

Bottom Line

An administrator is only approved for an estate if the individual passes without a will. In order to prevent your estate from becoming the subject of an administrator, you will need to establish a legally valid will. The best way to create an airtight will and testament is to consult a trusts & estates attorney.

A trusts & estates attorney can help you forge a will that meets your needs. Whether you want to leave your assets to your children, a charity, or even a pet, a trusts & estates attorney can help you efficiently distribute your estate with as little loss to fees and taxes as possible.

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