Serving as a personal representative (executor or administrator) for a loved one’s estate is a big responsibility. “You have the power of attorney for the deceased person’s estate. You need to handle their real estate, settle any estate tax, communicate with their loved ones, and hire a law firm for legal advice, among other things,” explains Patrick O’Brien, executor.org. All in all, the entire process typically lasts about a year from start to finish – though the actual time can vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate. But did you know there is actually a difference between an executor and an estate administrator?
What is the Difference Between an Executor and an Estate Administrator?
One common point of confusion is the difference between an executor and an estate administrator. “Both the Executor and Administrator of Estate must report to probate court,” explains Patrick Hicks, Trust & Will. And both serve relatively the same role, selling properties, paying taxes, gathering and dispersing assets. Every estate is different and, therefore, the specific duties of the administrator can vary drastically from estate to estate. However, both executors and estate administrators are fiduciaries, both must act in the best interest of the estate, and both are accountable to the probate court, “though executors generally have more power when handling assets,” says Hicks. This is because an executor was nominated to serve in the deceased person’s will or estate plan and, because of this, is often “granted additional responsibilities,” explains Hicks. An estate administrator, meanwhile, has been appointed by a probate court to manage the deceased person’s estate when there is no will or estate plan in place. An estate administrator is “guided by state law,” says Hicks. In Maryland, a court-appointed personal representative or estate administrator is limited to the authority granted by what the law provides in the statutes. However, if a personal representative or executor nominated in a Will has all the same legal authority PLUS any additional powers granted in the Will.
The court rules for estate administration are found in Title 6 of the Maryland Rules (Title 6 of the Maryland Rules).
Who Can Be an Executor or Estate Administrator?
Another major difference between an executor and an estate administrator is who can serve in these roles. An executor can be anyone named in a will, while the appointment of an estate administrator must follow more strict priority requirements. Only certain people are entitled to apply. If the deceased did not create a Will, Maryland gives priority to the spouse of the deceased and adult children (biological or adopted), then parents, and then siblings. For those further down the pecking order who wish to serve as administrator of the estate, they must file a “Consent to Appointment of Personal Representative” signed by all those who have priority over them.
When the Register of Wills or Orphan’s Court appoints an estate administrator, it grants the representative letters of administration, which empower the representative to distribute the assets in the estate.
Work with an Experienced Estate & Trust Administration Attorney
Administering an estate is a big job and most people thrust into the role are unfamiliar with the responsibilities and nuances of the position. PathFinder Law Group can help guide you through the probate process and answer any questions you may have along the way. We are an estate planning law firm in Towson, Maryland with over 15 years of experience. Our team provides legal guidance that comes from the heart and our solutions are tailored to fit your individual needs. To contact PathFinder Law Group about your Estate Administration needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.