Estate administration” or “trust administration” is the process of carrying out a person’s planned wishes and administering his or her estate following his or her incapacity or death. It is the final winding down of a person’s final affairs and distributing his or her assets in accordance with his or her estate plan. An estate is usually administered by a person or entity (such as a bank, law firm or accountancy firm), who was chosen by the maker of an estate plan to execute the maker’s wishes and turn those wishes into reality. This is the “personal representative” of the estate.

When the maker of an estate plan creates a Trust, he or she nominates a person or entity to take charge at some point (typically upon incapacity or death of the maker). That person, usually referred to as the “Trustee,” then shoulders the responsibility of ensuring that the estate plan maker’s wishes are followed within the boundaries of the law, including but not limited to the tax code, probate code, family code and civil code.

If there is no trust, a Last Will and Testament nominates a person to be appointed as the “Executor” of a deceased person’s estate. That executor must petition the court to be formally appointed and empowered to follow the decedent’s wishes (under the court’s supervision). In cases when there is no trust and no will, the California Probate Code directs who will be appointed and in which order of priority; this person is called the “Administrator.”

The best advice any Trustee, Executor or Administrator can accept is to seek the advice and representation of a competent attorney to help navigate these complex areas of the law to limit their exposure to personal liability for the actions they take.

The old saying, “no good deed goes unpunished” exists for a reason, and many personal representatives have related stories from personal experience attesting to this. The personal representative, whether a trustee operating without court supervision or an executor who regularly reports their actions to the court, must perform their job with the added pressure of beneficiaries eagerly (and sometimes aggressively) awaiting completion of administration so that they can receive their inheritance.

The Law Office of Mario A. Pacione routinely assists personal representatives by representing them in their official capacity. We help these persons and entities avoid making the mistakes that can lead to lawsuits and personal liability. Quality legal representation is one of the best insurance policies a personal representative can invest in and the cost is almost always paid by the decedent’s estate.


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