The executor or personal representative of an estate takes on a lot of work when they accept their role. They have to handle probate court proceedings, resolve someone’s financial obligations and hand out inherited assets to beneficiaries. They must set aside personal feelings to abide by state law and the estate plan.
In addition to a lot of personal responsibility, executors in Pennsylvania also have some personal risks related to how well they perform their jobs. In some cases, an executor in Pennsylvania may have financial liability for two kinds of obligations that were originally the responsibility of the deceased party.
Debts and taxes require a careful approach
Even though the testator may have focused their written instructions on who should inherit their property, the Pennsylvania probate courts expect an executor to first fulfill someone’s obligations before granting assets to beneficiaries.
In some scenarios, the estate may not have enough assets to pay all creditors and all tax obligations. The executor won’t be responsible for debts when the estate does not have adequate resources. However, they do become personally responsible for unpaid debts when they handed out resources to beneficiaries but did not repay creditors or reserve funds for taxes.
Both individual creditors and tax authorities could potentially hold the executor of an estate responsible for failing to fulfill someone’s financial obligations. Executors could find themselves in a difficult position where they need to reclaim property they distributed to beneficiaries. If they cannot for whatever reason, they may end up forced to pay an equivalent amount from their own resources.
Understanding the risks involved in probate administration can help those planning and estate or trying to manage one.