The Basics of Estate Administration

cemetery

First of all, what is “administration”? Administration is finalizing a deceased person’s financial affairs. This includes gathering assets, paying debts, expenses and taxes, and distributing what is left to those who are entitled to it. Those who are entitled would include those named in the Will (if the decedent left one) and beneficiary designations. If the decedent did not leave a Will, then property is distributed according to Indiana’s statute of intestacy.  The decedent is the person who died. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that tells the personal representative how to distribute the decedent’s assets. The Personal Representative is the person appointed by the Court to administer the assets of the decedent. Sometimes you’ll hear the words “executor” or “administrator.” An executor is a person named in the Will whereas an administrator is a person appointed by the Court because there is no Will. Personal Representative refers generally to both terms.  For a further discussion on Personal Representatives, see our blog post “Duties and Responsibilities of a Personal Representative.”

Estate administration can be either supervised or unsupervised. Supervised administration is administration that is supervised directly by the Court. The Personal Representative must seek the Court’s approval to sell real estate, personal property, or any other asset. Unsupervised administration allows the Personal Representative to perform most of the administration without direct supervision by the Court. However, before authorizing unsupervised administration, the Court must decide that the Personal Representative is qualified to administer the estate unsupervised. Also, all the beneficiaries of the estate must agree to unsupervised administration, unless the Will authorizes unsupervised administration. Generally, supervised administration usually ends up being more expensive because there is more interaction with the Court.

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