Charles N. Doberneck

Subtitle

Estate And Trust Administration

When an Indiana resident dies, his or her “probate property” must be collected, creditors must be notified, debts and taxes must be paid or otherwise discharged, and the remaining probate property must be distributed to the beneficiaries who are entitled to receive it under the decedent’s will, or if the decedent did not leave a will, then to the beneficiaries under Indiana’s law of “intestate succession”. The person who is appointed by a court to perform such tasks is called a “personal representative.”

In Indiana, a decedent’s probate estate is administered either with court supervision (a “supervised estate”) or without court supervision (an “unsupervised estate).”   A person can authorize or request the administration of his or her estate without court supervision in his or her will.  In the absence of such authorization or request in the will or when the decedent does not leave a valid will, an estate may be administered without court supervision, if all beneficiaries consent to and understand the significance of administration without court supervision.  In either case, the estate also must be solvent and the court must determine that the personal representative is qualified to administer the estate without court supervision.

Although there are cases in which there are advantages to supervised administration, or not all of the conditions for unsupervised administration are satisfied, the vast majority of estates can be administered without court supervision.  The availability of unsupervised administration helps to achieve savings in the extra work and expense that is required in a supervised estate, and an unsupervised estate administration is functionally similar to the “probate avoidance”  advantages of a living trust.

Administering an estate involves particular actions and procedures, many of which are governed by state and federal laws.  Many basic actions are common to both estate and trust administration, actions that involve common sense—for example, paying bills, debts, and taxes, as well as distributing property in the estate or trust property to the beneficiaries of the estate or trust.