Estate administration is the process of probating the estate of a decedent, which generally includes collecting, inventorying and appraising assets; paying and collecting debts; filing and paying estate taxes; and distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries. The Law Office of Devane, Fogarty & Ribezzo can help simplify this complicated process.
The probate estate consists of all of the property (of any type or description) that is owned by the decedent at his or her death and that has not already been set up to transfer automatically at death. Assets that often transfer automatically at death could include bank accounts or other assets specifically designated to transfer in this fashion or assets held through a trust but most often include real estate held with a right of survivorship or insurance policies with a named beneficiary. Probate assets are subject to the jurisdiction of the probate court and are distributed according to the terms of a valid will or Rhode Island’s intestacy law. Non-probate assets transfer directly to the designee outside of the purview of the probate court.
Rhode Island provides for an informal process of probating an estate when the value of assets held (exclusive of tangible personal property) is $15,000 or less. Though the process is a quicker and far less complicated process of probating an estate, it still often makes sense to involve an attorney. Costs are often minimal.
Once a person dies, the estate is submitted to the probate court. If there is a will, the probate court will determine if the will is valid and then oversee the administration of the estate by the executor (the person appointed in the will by the decedent to oversee the estate). If there is no will or the will is determined to be invalid, the probate court will appoint an administrator and the decedent’s property will be distributed according to the state’s laws of inheritance.
An executor is a person named by a decedent in a will in charge of administering the estate. The role is titled administrator if the decedent died intestate and the Court needs to make the appointment. He or she is, at its essence, in charge of the following:
Gathering and inventorying all assets of the estate
Appraising the assets
Collecting any payments or debts owed to the estate
Paying any debts owed by the estate
Filing and paying local, state and federal taxes
Distributing assets to the beneficiaries as stipulated in the will
The executor owes fiduciary duties to anyone who has an interest in the estate. This means that the executor owes a duty of loyalty and must act in the best interests of the estate. For example, if the executor mismanages estate assets and causes the estate to lose value, he or she can be held liable for these actions and may have to repay the estate the amount of the lost value.