Estate Administrator Duties

By Heather Frances J.D.

When a person dies, his estate will likely go through the probate process, whether or not he left a will. During probate, the estate will be collected, debts paid and remaining assets distributed to beneficiaries. The person assigned the duty of managing the estate through this process is called an administrator or executor. Since state statutes govern estate administration, the administrator must follow state law regarding procedures and time frames.


When there is a will, the maker of the will typically names an executor to manage the administration of his estate, although this person must still be officially appointed by the court before beginning his duties. When there isn't a will, the will does not name an executor or the named executor does not accept the nomination, the court will appoint an estate administrator, sometimes called a personal representative, to manage estate administration. Regardless of whether the administrator is named in a will or appointed by the court, his powers and duties are the same.


Under most state laws, the administrator must provide notice of his appointment – or proposed appointment – to persons who have an interest in the decedent’s estate. This usually includes beneficiaries named in the will and heirs as determined by state statutes. State law may also require the administrator to provide notice of his appointment to known creditors of the estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Estate Assets

Once the estate is opened and the required notice is provided to creditors – often through newspaper publication – creditors may submit claims against the estate. The administrator also gathers all estate assets and holds them until the estate is closed; the administrator may also have to manage the decedent’s investments or other assets until they are sold or distributed. The court will likely require the administrator to inventory the assets and file that inventory with the court. If needed, the administrator has the ability to hire professionals, such as lawyers, accountants and appraisers, at the expense of the estate.

Closing the Estate

The administrator may have to sell estate assets to satisfy creditors; the remaining estate assets will be distributed after creditors are paid. If there is no will, the estate will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws or laws of succession. If there is a valid will, the estate will be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. Depending on state law, the administrator may have to submit a final accounting to the court either before or after the remaining assets are distributed.

Fiduciary Duty

An estate administrator has a “fiduciary duty” to the estate. This is the duty to act with good faith, diligence and honesty on behalf of the estate, including an obligation to the estate’s heirs to properly preserve the assets of the estate, pay the legitimate debts of the decedent, pay taxes due and distribute assets to the appropriate heirs.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Happens After an Estate Has Been Probated?


Related articles

How Does the Executor of an Estate Resign in California?

Probate is a court-supervised process that transfers legal title of property from the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent, to his beneficiaries and heirs. In California, the Superior Court in the county where the decedent lived when he died handles the probate process. Typically, when a person makes a will, he names an executor, also known as a personal representative, to oversee the administration of the estate according to his wishes. An executor has numerous responsibilities. If you are named as an executor in California or in any other state, you have the option of declining the appointment, or resigning at a later date if you accept the appointment.

How to Settle a Personal Estate

When a person creates a will, she often includes language in the will identifying a person who will serve as the executor of the estate when the will creator dies. A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate.” Whereas an executor handles estate assets under a will, an administrator handles a deceased person’s estate if the person died intestate. Although the titles differ, both executors and administrators are responsible for managing the distributing the decedent’s estate.

When Is an Estate Considered Settled?

When a person dies, his property is gathered into an estate. The estate is formed for the purpose of settling his outstanding liabilities and distributing what remains to his heirs and beneficiaries. The process for distributing a decedent’s estate varies by state. As a result, review the laws of the state where the decedent lived to determine the process related to your specific set of circumstances. Generally, an estate is considered settled when a court declares the estate closed.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Administrator Responsibilities for Estate Sales Without a Will

When a person dies without a will, the state probate court will appoint an individual to oversee the transfer of his ...

Massachusetts Laws Regarding the Administrator of an Estate

Probate is the court-supervised process whereby the assets of a deceased person are collected and distributed according ...

Removal of an Executor of Estate's Responsibilities

An estate executor is responsible for handling the decedent's, or deceased person's, estate including bill payment and ...

What Happens if No One Moves to Settle an Estate?

Once a person dies, a loved one usually files a petition in probate court to start proceedings to settle the estate. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED