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What does the administrator of an estate have the right to do in Pennsylvania?

Tunkhannock, PA |

Does the administrator of an estate in PA get to decide who gets what? In Pennsylvania, when deciding how to divide up the estate, does the person administrating the will get more of a say?

And can they just give themselves the entire estate?

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Attorney answers 4


Absolutely not, the administrator of an estate in PA cannot just give himself the whole estate! All administrators have to follow the state laws of Intestacy. That is, they have to follow the conditions set forth in the estate of the person who has died. Period.

Good luck

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Of course not. A person executing a will of a person who has died is not allowed to simply keep the entire estate. In Florida, the administrator of an estate is called a Personal Representative (PR). In your state of Pennsylvania, they are probably called an Executor or Executrix. Same difference since both a PR and an executor have a fiduciary duty (the highest duty recognized by law) to administer an estate in good faith.

A procedure called Probate must be followed. Probate means to clear title to property that is in dispute. In most circumstances, Probate is necessary even if a will exists. A judge must appoint a PR upon the Sworn Oath of the PR (and sometimes the posting of a bond) that they will distribute the estate according to the terms of the Will (if one exists) or according to the rules of intestacy (which are those rules which say who gets what and in what percentage) if there is no Will or if a Will is found to be invalid for whatever reason. This is a general response to a general question that is not intended to be relied upon by any person to whom I have never spoken to directly. Good luck.


An Administrator of an Estate has the job of collecting the assets of the decedent which belong to the estate (assets held jointly with another person, and assets having a designated beneficiary generally don't belong to the estate). When the Administrator has identified the assets, he/she prepares and inventory and files it, either with the court, or with the beneficiaries of the estate. In Illinois where I practice, we have both "supervised" and "unsupervised" administration. The court is much more involved in supervised estates.

The Administrator has the duty to notify possible claimants (people who claim to be owed money by the deceased or the estate) that the estate is open, and they may file their claims. When claims are filed, the Administrator evaluates them. If considered legitimate, they can be consented to, otherwise the Administrator can ask the claimant "prove" his or her claim to the court, which will rule on whether or not to allow the claim, and in what amount.

The Administrator has to file tax returns if they are due. These would include Federal Estate (Unified Transfer) Tax, final income tax returns for the deceased, income tax returns for the estate, possibly State tax returns as well.

When the assets have been collected, the claims resolved and the tax returns either audited or approved, the Administrator distributes the remaining estate. Here in Illinois we reserve the term Administrator for an estate in which the deceased left no will. Every state has a statute declaring the heirs of deceased persons, and in the absence of a will, distribution is to the heirs according to the statute.

If there is a will, the person administering the estate is called an Executor. An Executor would have the job of defending the will if it is attacked. At the conclusion of the estate, the Executor distributes the estate according to the terms of the will.

Administrators have no authority to decide who gets what, they either follow the statute (no will) or the will.

Administrators have a duty to treat everyone fairly - heirs - creditors - beneficiaries under the will (called Legatees). The have an absolute duty to avoid benefitting themselves at the expense of creditors and beneficiaries.

Someone once said being an Administrator is the kind of job you would only give to your worst enemy, but of course you wouldn't trust that person to give it to him. In the modern world, the fees charged by Administrators/Executors are carefully watched by the Courts to avoid abuse.

Answering your question on AVVO, does not create a lawyer-client relationship between us. Under the rules of the Supreme Court of Illinois, or the rules of other jurisdictions, this answer may be regarded as advertising. Because questions provided on AVVO simply cannot contain a complete description of all the relevant facts, information contained in this answer should not be considered as individual legal advice or legal opinion. You are urged to consult an attorney licensed to practice in your State regarding your own legal situation.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


Very well stated answer, as usual!


No they do not! Hopefully there is an attorney involved managing the probate administration of the Estate. The administrator is bound to the intestate succession laws in PA, which dictate how the Estate is distributed and to whom.

I am attaching an article that is an interesting read!

Gladys Wiles
Snyder & Wiles PC
7731 Main Street
Fogelsville, PA 18051

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