What Does an Administrator of an Estate Do?

What Does an Administrator of an Estate Do? A leather book with gold letters reading, "Estate Law" sits on a wooden table next to a document labeled, :Last Will and Testament."

When a friend or family member dies, an estate administrator- otherwise called a personal representative or executor –  is appointed to carry out the wishes of the deceased. This administrator is typically named in the estate plan. However, if there is no will in the estate plan, the administrator is appointed by the court. So, what do you do if you find yourself responsible for managing a loved one’s affairs or estate? What does an administrator of an estate do?

What is the Difference Between an Executor and an Administrator of an Estate?

One common point of confusion is the difference between an executor and an estate administrator. And the truth is that both serve the same role. The difference lies in how the person was appointed.

  • An Executor is someone who was nominated to serve in the deceased person’s will. 
  • An Estate Administrator is someone who has been appointed by a probate court to manage the deceased person’s estate. This is often the case when there is no will or estate plan in place.

“Both the Executor and Administrator of Estate must report to probate court, though Executors generally have more power when handling assets,” explains Patrick Hicks, Trust & Will. “The reason for this is because the Executor is typically granted additional responsibilities within a Will, while an Administrator of Estate is guided by state law.”

What Does an Administrator of an Estate Do?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. It can be even more difficult when you find yourself named executor or estate administrator. You may be wondering, “Where do I even begin?” So, let’s dive right in and explore some of the primary roles of an administrator of an estate.

“Each estate has one or more people appointed to act on its behalf,” explains Cynthia Gaffney, PocketSense. “An administrator is an individual appointed to dispose of the assets of the estate, manage any creditors, and pay fees out of the estate for any required attorneys, appraisers, or accountants.” This process includes the following steps:

  1. Filing the Will – If there is a will, the executor must first file it with the probate court to determine whether or not probate is required. Probate is the legal process to distribute the estate of a person after they pass away. If the deceased person has no will and testament, the property will go to the decedent’s relatives, according to Maryland Law (Md. Code, Estates and Trusts §§ 3-101 to 3-112). 
  2. Gather Assets – Next, the estate administrator will begin creating an inventory of assets and having them appraised if necessary.
  3. Pay Bills and Outstanding Debts – The estate administrator must notify creditors, banks, and government agencies (such as Social Security) of the death and pay any outstanding bills and debts from the estate. This includes paying any state and federal taxes that may be due. If there is not enough cash to pay these expenses, assets may be sold to generate the necessary funds.
  4. Distribute Assets – Once any outstanding expenses have been paid, the remaining assets can be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries.
  5. Close the Estate – Once all assets have been distributed, the estate administrator or executor can petition the probate court to release them from office and close the estate.

The probate process can be anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. For more details, the court rules for estate administration are found in Title 6 of the Maryland Rules (Md. Code, Estates and Trusts § 10-101 and Title 6 of the Maryland Rules).

Does an Administrator Need an Attorney?

An estate administrator doesn’t need an attorney, but it is recommended that they hire one. Especially if you find yourself asking, “What does an administrator of an estate do?” The probate process can be complex, so it can be incredibly beneficial to have an experienced estate administration attorney, like PathFinder Law Group, to help guide the administrator every step of the way.

PathFinder is an estate planning law firm in Towson, Maryland with over 50 years of experience. Our team can help oversee the distribution process to ensure all of your loved one’s wishes are met. Here are a few examples of estate plans and trusts we handle for our clients:

  • Estate Plans
  • Probate Estates
  • Trusts
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Pet Trusts
  • Revocable Trusts
  • IRA Retirement Trusts

To contact PathFinder Law Group about your Estate Administration needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529  or email staff@pathfinderlawgroup.com. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.