Estate Administration FAQ's
1. What happens, legally, when someone dies?
The handling of a deceased person's estate is called an estate administration.
2. What is an estate administration?
Upon the death of an individual, decisions involving the decedent's burial arrangements and the disposition of his or her property must be made by someone. Usually such decisions are made by family members. If the decedent had a valid Last Will and Testament (the Will), that document normally names the person(s) who will handle the decedent's affairs. If the decedent died without a Will, the law directs who can handle the estate and who will receive the decedent's property.
Contrary to popular belief, where there is no Will, the state will not receive the decedent's property unless there are essentially no living relatives who can be located. Whomever is designated by the decedent's Will, or an appropriate individual, in the case of intestacy (death without a will), may handle the decedent's estate, but only after the individual(s) is appointed by the Court and given proper legal authority to do so.
Who should be appointed to manage a decedent's estate, how to do so, who will inherit the decedent's assets and what steps are required to properly administer an estate are all legal questions that should be explored with an attorney who is very knowledgeable in such matters. Robert F. Boyd and James M. Boyd, at the Law Offices of Boyd & Boyd, P.C. are glad to discuss these questions with you and will do so preliminarily without charge, to guide you in answering these important questions.
3. How are fees charged for the handling of estates?
There are several ways fees may be charged for the administration of an estate. Whoever serves as executor (one who is appointed in the decedent's Last Will and Testament) or administrator (where there is no last will and testament) is entitled to a fee for handling the estate. That fee is generally in the range of four (4%) to five (5%) percent of the gross value of the estate.
The proper administration of an estate is a complex matter. It involves decisions such as locating and notifying the proper heirs of the estate, properly locating, liquidating and handling the assets of the estate, reporting to the heirs and the Commissioner of Accounts, the filing of appropriate state and federal tax returns, and the resolution of any claims or disputes which may arise involving the decedent's estate. Importantly, the executor/administrator serves in a fiduciary capacity in administering the estate. This means that the individual who assumes this responsibility may have personal liability if the estate is not properly handled. For these reasons, it is advisable to seek expert legal advice to ensure that the executor/administrator becomes knowledgeable with the many legal requirements of an estate administration.
At our firm, the law offices of Boyd & Boyd, P.C., we provide guidance to executors and administrators for which we charge a fee on an hourly basis. Typically, the executor/administrator will meet with us for one to two hours to review the estate assets and the particulars of how to administer the estate. Following that consultation, we will stand by ready to answer any questions that may arise.
Alternatively, at times, the decedent, in his or her Last Will and Testament, or the decedent's family members, will decide to ask us to serve as the executor or administrator of the estate. In these instances, typically, legal fees are not charged. Our fee would be paid as part of the fee a non-professional would receive, generally, a fee of four (4%) to five (5%) percent of the gross value of the estate is considered a reasonable fee for seeing the estate through a complete administration.