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Probate - Serving As Executor

By Jordan Pecile, Esq.

In addition to the grief you may experience when a family member or close friend dies, you may also have the anxiety of serving as the personal representative (executor) of the estate of the deceased person. The task of serving as personal representative can be time consuming and stressful.

The basic responsibilities of an executor are to:

  • identify and account for all of the assets of the deceased person 
  • pay the debts of the decedent 
  • file any required tax returns
  • distribute the assets of the estate as required by the will or by intestacy 

Your first decision must be whether to hire a lawyer. As with any other matter, make sure that the fees are agreed in advance. Attorney fees are commonly based on a percentage of the value of the estate.

A lawyer will assist you in probating the original will at the Register of Wills office and obtaining your “short certificates.” From there, you and your attorney will inventory all of the decedent’s assets, such as bank accounts, deeds, stock certificates, bonds, insurance policies and automobiles.

An estate checking account should be opened, so you must obtain an EIN number from the IRS. Remember, as an executor you must carefully account for each and every penny that goes into or out of the estate account. 

After all of the assets of the estate are identified, you must then determine their value, which may involve the services of an appraiser. The personal representative must also make sure that all of the debts owed by the deceased are paid. Public notice of the executor’s appointment must be published in a local newspaper and in the official county legal journal. It may be necessary for you to file a final income tax return for the deceased person. It is likely that a State and perhaps a Federal death tax return will need to be filed.

The personal representative must do a final accounting or obtain releases before distributing any assets.

This all sounds like a lot of work, and an executor is entitled to get paid. However, any fees paid to an executor must be reported as earnings to the IRS on a 1099.

Understanding your job as an executor is important, but the help of an experienced attorney will ensure that things are done properly.









Attorney Pecile

1201A North Church Street 29th Street
Office Complex, Building A, Suite 220
Hazleton, Pennsylvania 18201

T +1 (570) 501-3323