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Probate Administration: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

“We will be done with all of this soon, right?” That’s the question I often hear when working with a client who has been appointed as the Personal Representative (PR) of the estate of a loved one who has recently passed away. My answer is to view the administration of an estate as a marathon, not as a sprint. You will reach the finish line so long as you put one foot in front of the other, but it may take some time and there will be periods when more of your energy is required depending on the obstacles in front of you during the probate process.

The administration of an estate in Massachusetts typically takes a year or more.  One reason is that under Massachusetts law, creditors have one year from the deceased’s date of death to file a claim against the deceased’s estate for the payment of a debt owed to the creditor, such as an outstanding balance on a credit card. This often means that as PR you will need to carefully manage and hold the majority of the estate assets for at least a year before final distributions can be made to the estate beneficiaries (those inheriting money from the estate).

It will feel like much of your energy will be expended during the first few months of the estate administration when you are marshalling the assets of the deceased. While it may seem tedious and difficult to methodically discover, document, consolidate, and manage the assets of the estate,  you will be fulfilling your fiduciary obligations, and avoid liability to the beneficiaries and creditors of the estate for mismanagement. Your careful approach will benefit you later on when you easily handle other PR responsibilities, such as filing final personal income tax returns, estate tax returns, and fiduciary income tax returns.

All your hard work will pay off at the end of the estate administration process when you account to the beneficiaries by documenting the amounts received by the estate and the expenditures of the estate under your management, and the beneficiaries happily receive distribution of their inheritances from the estate.

Everyone tackles marathons differently, however, in all cases it is beneficial to have support and guidance; training is essential, too. At Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC we are happy to run the marathon with you, providing support and guidance every step of the way through the probate process. Read more of our articles, attend our seminars, and do not hesitate to contact us when it is necessary for you to embark on the probate administration journey – it will seem like you are crossing the finish line in no time at all.

November, 2018

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