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Administrator of the Estate Executes Decedent's Wishes as Probate Executor.

Being the Administrator of an estate can be a challenging duty. This is particularly true when a loved one designates you as the Administrator of their estate. Not only will you be dealing with the loss of someone very close, you will also be dealing with the grieving family and beneficiaries.

The Administrator of any estate is required to work with the decedent's estate planning attorney. Also referred to as the Estate Executor, Estate Administrator or Probate Executor, the Administrator plays an important role in handling the decedent's estate.

Duties of the estate administrator include providing information to the funeral home, contacting government agencies such as Social Security Administration and Medicare, inventory of the decedent's personal belongings and assets, distribution of assets and filing a final tax return.

If the decedent did not execute a Last Will and Testament or Living Trust, the duties of the Administrator are typically much more challenging. Executing a Will outlines the final wishes of the decedent. If there is no Will, the Administrator must adhere to distribution outlined by a probate judge.

Probate occurs whether a decedent executes a Will or dies intestate (without a Will). Although measures can be taken to avoid probate, the only guaranteed way to escape probate is to execute a Revocable or Irrevocable Living Trust. A revocable living trust allows provisions for change while the decedent is still alive, whereas an irrevocable trust cannot be altered after it is established.

During probate the decedent's assets are held and cannot be distributed until authorized by the court. This process can take between six months to three years. If there is family discord, probate can drag on for long periods of time while a judge sorts through evidence provided by heirs entitled to the decedent's assets.

Estate administrators are entitled to receive a fee for services rendered. This can be charged at an hourly rate, flat fee or percentage of the estate. While most people feel awkward receiving compensation for working on their loved one's estate, it is important to realize that a considerable amount of work is involved in closing an estate.

Depending on the size and complexities of the estate, administrators can spend 10 to 20 hours per week for several months sorting out paperwork, inventorying assets, maintaining real estate and working with probate attorneys and estate planners. There is no reason to feel guilty about receiving a fee for the time spent on handling the estate.

Designated Administrators can elect to be removed from their position if they feel they are unable to take on the duties. A probate judge can designate another family member or outsider to administer the estate or the family can hire a professional estate administrator. If a professional administrator is retained, expect to pay approximately 25-percent of the value of the estate for services rendered.