The executor is personally responsible for estate and inheritance taxes.
If the executor decides to distribute part of the inheritance before taxes are paid - it is OK if taxes eventually will be paid and there are enough funds remain to pay off tax liability.
Federal estate taxes are due for estates above $2,000,000 (for 2008).
Pennsylvania also has an estate tax based on a decedent's total gross estate - above $1,000,000.
Pennsylvania collects an inheritance tax - the tax rate is determined by the relationship of the beneficiaries to the decedent and can be 0% (spouse); 4.5% (lineal heirs - kids, grandkids, etc.); 12% (siblings - brother/sister) or 15% (collateral heirs - everyone else!)
see for reference - https://revenue-pa.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/r evenue_pa.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=952&p_created=1046966268&p_sid=JXtpsQui&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PWRmbHQmcF9ncmlkc29ydD0mcF9yb3dfY250PTQzJnBfcHJvZHM9JnBfY2F0cz02JnBfcHY9JnBfY3Y9MS42JnBfc2VhcmNoX3R5cGU9YW5zd2Vycy5zZWFyY2hfbmwmcF9wYWdlPTE*&p_li=&p_topview=1"target=_blank"