An estate administrator is a certified fiduciary who is court-approved to work in probate courts, to handle the affairs and asset distributions of a deceased person’s estate.
One of many judgment-related articles: I am a judgment broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.
Certified fiduciaries must obtain fiduciary certification, which is a testing process to make sure that the person knows the laws of the state, the rules of the probate court, and how to administer a deceased’s estate.
Certified fiduciaries are regulated by the state. If a person neglects their duties, a state can revoke their certification. Certified fiduciaries must submit to background checks.
Probate courts may sometimes allow family members or other people to administer a probate estate, however one usually should retain the services of a certified fiduciary to do this.
A certified fiduciary is paid out of the estate, just like anybody would be if they became the administrator of an estate. A certified fiduciary acts as a court receiver (see our article: Receivers) and works for the court, not the heirs of the estate.
A certified fiduciary makes things run much faster. They already have their bond and their own attorney on speed dial. Any necessary attorney fees are paid out of the estate. Often, you will need to pay a certified fiduciary an advance against their costs, until the court reimburses them for their services.
The administrator of the estate and their attorney will each be entitled to 4% of the first $100K, 3% of the next $100K, 2% of the next $100K, and 1% of the anything over $700K. In exchange for their fee, the administrator is responsible for:
1) Using reasonable effort, to locate the heirs of the estate.
2) Marshaling (gathering and tallying) the assets of the estate, and using their best judgment to dispose of them via collection or sale.
3) Obtaining court orders to distribute the proceeds to the creditors, including themselves.
4) Distributing any remaining assets, as per court order.
5) Preparing the annual 940 tax return for the estate, for each year that the person has been deceased.
6) Preparing the final distribution report for the court to approve, with the help of their attorney.
7) Disbursing any remaining assets, if there are any, to the heirs of the estate.
The administrator also has other duties. The smaller the estate is, the more likely the court will let a non-certified person administer the estate. Anyone administering an estate must get a probate bond, and bonding companies will require them to retain a probate attorney before they will sell them a bond.
Probate courts know certified fiduciaries, and work with them frequently; so you get the benefit of having someone work with the court that has an established reputation, and knows how to keep things moving along.
Sometimes to recover a judgment, judgment enforcers become administrators of estates. This is not a traditional approach, however it can work. This requires travel, or close proximity to the court and the heirs, whom the judgment enforcer will have to meet face-to-face at least a few times.