ESTATE ADMINISTRATION: What You Need to Know About Documentation

Estate Administration is an emotional roller coaster and, quite honestly, it entails a lot of time, energy, patience and flexibility.  It doesn’t give you very much time to grieve either; however, that is why we are here to help assist you with the process. Deadlines will quickly approach.  That is why it is very important you schedule a consultation as soon as possible after your loved one passes away. Things will be thoroughly discussed during that consultation; however, we recognize that your emotions are at an all-time high, your head may be spinning, and you may feel sick to your stomach. Don’t worry, we are here to help you. All of this information will be spelled out in a letter for you, which you can continuously refer through-out the entire process. This is important documentation you should keep in a safe but easily accessible place.

DOCUMENTATION.  Do you really need that?  Yes, it is required by the Department of Revenue when the final Inheritance Tax Return has to be submitted for their review.  You have to attach documentation along with the final Inheritance Tax Return. Think of it as the same process as when you pay your bills.  You either receive an invoice via mail or via online and you either write a check or schedule that amount online to be withdrawn from your bank account.  Either way, there is some sort of paper trail for your own finances. The same applies when you are handling the Estate Administration. Easy, right? It is also the same as your personal Income Taxes.  It is recommended you keep them for at least seven (7) years. Well, the same pertains to Estate Administration paperwork/documentation. As long as the Estate is open, you need to keep all documentation in a safe place.  Keep records of ALL receipts, invoices, bills, correspondence, etc. You never know when the Department of Revenue will inquire for more information and you certainly don’t want to give them a reason for such an inquiry.

Since every penny going in and out of the Estate account must be accounted for, it is highly suggested the Personal Representative, Executor or Administrator of the Estate maintain scrupulous record keeping of all monies within that Estate Account.  This record keeping includes copies of invoices, checks, check registers, and monthly copies of the Estate bank statements. These documents will be requested by the Attorney handling the Estate for the preparation of the Inheritance Tax Return. Without documentation (proof), you are risking the final Inheritance Tax Return being rejected or additional information required before the Return will be accepted.

With that being said, less documentation translates to a longer and more difficult Estate Administration process. This also means a longer wait time for the heirs to receive their final distributions to which they are entitled, along with possible accruing interest from the Department of Revenue if the payment of Inheritance Tax is not timely.

For those in need of an Attorney in York Pa for Estate Administration, we are sorry for your loss.  We invite you to call us at 717-846-8846 or 717-235-6133 for a consultation so that we can compassionately and professionally assist you in the process.

Written By:  Nicole Tapias, Support Professional  

As Reviewed By:  William F. Hoffmeyer, Esquire

© Copyright by Hoffmeyer & Semmelman LLC,  February 2019



York PA Will AttorneyA Will puts you in charge because it allows you to decide who will receive your assets upon death.  A Will may also show your intentions regarding burial, cremation and, if you have minor children, who should be the guardian of those children.   If you do not have a Will, the law decides who receives your assets, and a court may need to decide other issues such as guardianship and burial.

A Will requires more than filling in blank lines on a preprinted or online computer form. Although a Will is beneficial for you, your intentions may not be fully realized if the Will is not properly drafted or if you are unaware of other legal issues which may affect your plans.  These fill-in-the-blank forms may not achieve your desires or give you proper advice.

On September 20, 2018, the Superior Court decided a case regarding whether the children lost their father’s legacy.  The appeals court focused on evidence issues and it did not decide if the children lost their legacy. It sent the case back to the trial court for another hearing.

Evidence issues are not the focus of this article.  Rather, the facts of this case show why it is important to know how other laws may thwart your intentions.

In this case, Decedent prepared a Will in the year 2000.  Decedent had two adult children from his first marriage and a stepchild through his current wife.  His Will gave wife 50% of his property, his daughter 25% and his son 25%. His stepchild received nothing unless another heir died before him.

On May 27, 2007, he died and his Will was probated.  At the time of his death, he and his wife had $330,000 in jointly-held accounts.

In Pennsylvania, the Multiple-Party Accounts Act states that the surviving joint owner of the account receives the funds in the account.  A Will does not change this law and as a result, his wife received all of the money in the joint accounts.

You may have guessed who received virtually nothing under his Will: his two adult children.  (They would receive some of his personal items.) There was nothing to give to them from these joint accounts because the funds went automatically to his wife, who was the joint owner.

You may have guessed who filed legal action to obtain their share.  His adult children filed legal action claiming their legacy failed because their father intended to give each of them 25% of his assets as stated in his Will. They claimed Father would not have given 25% to each of them and then create joint accounts which would give them nothing.  They made two additional claims. First, they claimed the person who actually prepared the Will failed to advise him that joint assets would go to their stepmother outside the scope of his Will. Second, they claimed if father received proper advice, stepmother used this advice after he signed the Will to place the money in joint accounts to deprive them of their proper share.

How will the case end?  Will father’s intent be granted?  Will the children lose and not receive anything except for a few personal items?  We don’t know. The case proceeded to trial in 2015 and it has been in appeals ever since then.  Currently, the case is with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The bottom line is to understand that a person may have the best intentions and draft a Will, but if one is not aware of how other laws affect those intentions, your Will may not accomplish your goals.  A Will does not change your beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy or a retirement plan. A Will does not change who receives a joint bank account or the real estate on a jointly titled deed.

If you are unaware of these other issues, your estate planning goals may not be satisfied and your intended heirs may be left with nothing. Litigation takes time and money, not only for the heirs, but the estate. We are available to give you the advice you need to make an informed decision and to properly draft your Will.


Written By:  Robert L. Buzzendore, Esquire

As Reviewed By:  William F. Hoffmeyer, Esquire

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