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What Does PA Estate Law Say About Executors and Your Responsibility as One?

When someone passes away, their last will and testament serves as a declaration of their final wishes and how they would like their estate to be divided. Typically, the will names an estate executor who oversees fulfilling the decedent’s last desires. PA estate law requires this person to meet this responsibility to the fullest extent but doing so alone can be challenging.

The lawyers at May Herr & Grosh know the intricacies of PA estate law because we understand how intimidating it can be to be someone’s executor with little knowledge about the process. Because we know how vital handling a last will and testament correctly can be for those the deceased has left behind, we are dedicated to helping estate executors navigate their administrative duties in a competent, professional manner.

What Is the Job of an Executor in Pennsylvania?

Most people are familiar with the idea of a last will and testament, but few know what must be done when someone names them an estate executor. This honor should not be taken lightly, as it not only attests to the trust the deceased has placed in you, but also comes with legal duties you are obligated to fulfill. In Pennsylvania, being named the executor of an estate, sometimes called the administrator or personal representative, comes with many responsibilities.

As the name suggests, the executor’s primary responsibility is to serve as the deceased person’s substitute and settle any final affairs on behalf of the estate. This process might include filing a final income tax return, settling debts like credit cards, and notifying any beneficiaries of potential bequests. After all debts and administrative expenses are paid, the executor has the authority to distribute the estate based on the deceased’s last will and testament.

What is the Probate Process?

As the executor of an estate, you will be expected to ensure the last will and testament is settled through the probate process. Depending on the size of the estate, this can be a challenging, time-consuming task, especially if you are unfamiliar with PA estate law. We have a complete guide on the probate process available to help you understand what steps you might need to take. However, suppose you want more information about your particular situation. In that case, you should speak with a lawyer who understands PA estate laws for the most thorough information about how to proceed. Lawyers who lack estate administration experience are not well-equipped to handle estate administration related questions, so it is best to speak with members of a firm that focuses on this area of law. Contact us today to learn more and discuss your executor duties.

Who Can Serve as An Estate Executor?

Even though anyone can be named an executor in a will, they may be deemed unfit if they do not meet several qualifications. PA estate law outlines the qualifications a person must meet to serve as an estate executor.

  • An estate executor must be 18 or older.
  • Any out-of-state executor may be required to post an executor bond, which is a type of surety bond, that forces the executor to perform their duties as the testator dictates. The necessity of a bond can be waived if the decedent’s will authorizes it.
  • The executor must not have any charges against them concerning the testator’s death, with some exceptions, like in the case of vehicular homicide.
  • Any corporate executor must be authorized to act as fiduciary in the state, which means they will work only on behalf of the estate and the beneficiaries.

Are There Executor Fees in PA?

Executors can receive a fee – also known as a “commission” – for settling a decedent’s estate. In PA, there are some guidelines that the courts consider that govern how much an executor can charge the estate. Ultimately any commission received by the executor should be  reasonable, and is subject to review by the Orphans’ Court. As with many other aspects of the process, having a PA estate administration attorney can help you understand the fee you can expect to receive for your particular circumstance.

What If You Are the Executor of the Will of a Person Who Lives Out of State?

For convenience’s sake, many people choose an estate executor that lives close to them. Close family members are often selected as the executors of an estate because they are closest, emotionally and in terms of location, to the deceased person. However, in some cases, the estate executor lives outside the testator’s home state. This circumstance can cause issues for the executor if not handled with care.

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When you are chosen as an estate executor to someone who lives in Pennsylvania while you are in another state, you will need the guidance of a lawyer who understands PA estate law to assist you and your chosen local lawyer in the estate administration.

On the other hand, as a resident of PA, you may have been chosen to serve as executor for an estate located elsewhere in the USA. In this case, you may need an out-of-state lawyer’s help to work with your local PA lawyer to ensure you cover all your bases in the process.

Are there Circumstances Where Changes to a Will are Invalid?

To amend a will legally and have those changes go into effect, according to PA estate law, the testator must do one of these two things:

  • Write the amendment, also known as a codicil, sign the paper, and have two witnesses sign as well.
  • Revoke the last will and completely rewrite it.

Either of these methods can ensure that the testator’s will is truly written as desired. PA estate law may prohibit changes made in any other manner. Working with a lawyer through this process is the only way to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken in the estate administration process.

What Do I Do If I Was Named as Executor on a Handwritten Will?

PA estate law allows handwritten wills, but they should be witnessed and signed by at least two people to be legally binding. If you are named as an executor on a handwritten will, it is important to work with a lawyer who understands the ins and outs of PA estate law to help you navigate what to do in this scenario.

Do You Need Help With PA Estate Law as An Estate Executor?

At May Herr & Grosh, we understand and honor the responsibility of being an estate executor. There are many legal aspects to consider, and you must work with a knowledgeable lawyer who understands the nuances of PA estate law. If you are named the executor of a will, contact us today to discuss your next steps.

This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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