So, You Want to be the Administrator of Your Mother or Father’s Probate Estate? Don’t Act So Quickly—Your Actions Could Subject You to Personal Liability

By: Daniel A. Perry 

A common question raised by the child of a deceased parent:

“I want to be the administrator of dad’s probate estate, what do I need to do?”

Unfortunately, the process is not that simple. In addition, being named the administrator of a probate estate comes with certain responsibilities. If you make mistakes in the administration of the probate estate, you could find yourself subjected to personal liability to the estate.

The Basics

If you die with a valid last will and testament, you have likely named an executor to administer your estate after your death. In this case, you have already named the person that will be administering and settling your estate. However, if you die without a will, someone will need to be named as your administrator to settle your estate.

Under law, only certain people can be named administrator of your estate. This person must be related to the individual who passed away. The order of priority to be named an administrator begins with the surviving spouse and the children coming next. In addition, you must be at least 18 years old to serve as an administrator of an estate.

Additional Responsibilities

Another obligation of the administrator is that he or she may need to obtain an insurance bond and file the bond with the probate court. This bond will be no less than the value of the estate and no more than two times the value of the estate. The precise amount of this bond will be determined by the probate court. However, the obligation on the part of the administrator to purchase an insurance bond can be waived under certain circumstances.

In addition, once you are named as administrator of an estate, there are certain obligations that you must follow. The many responsibilities that an administrator may have include filing an inventory and accounting of all the assets and debts that are part of the estate. Additionally, the administrator has a duty to put all potential creditors on notice of the probate matter. The administrator also has a fiduciary responsibility when it comes to overseeing the assets of the estate. This means that the he or she may not withdraw or mismanage the estate assets.

If an administrator knowingly fails to put a creditor on notice of the probate estate, and the creditor misses a timed deadline on which to file a claim, the administrator could be subject to personal liability for the debt. In addition, if an administrator mismanages the assets of the estate, they could be removed, could be subject to a contempt action by the court including the issuance of fines, and the administrator could even be subject to personal liability for the loss to the estate.

For More Information

As you can see, being named the administrator of an estate is no simple decision and should only be undertaken after careful consideration and discussion with a knowledgeable estate planning and probate attorney. If you have questions on how to proceed as the administrator of an estate or even whether you should consider being named as an administrator of a loved one’s probate estate, then please contact our office for a complimentary visit so that we can discuss your estate planning needs.

We look forward to hearing from you!