May 3, 2021
Before you take over in the Personal Representative role of a decedent's estate, it is helpful to become familiar of what this will entail. The Personal Representative is an appointed person within the will who oversees the process of executing the deceased persons estate plan and the distribution of assets that is proposed through the will. The average service time of a Personal Representative is around a year, but it can vary based on the size of the estate.
What is the Role and Responsibilities of an Personal Representative?
- Obtain and Review the Latest Will and Trusts
In the early stages, often Personal Representatives will hire a Probate Attorney to assist with the filing of the will and to help assess the validity of the will. As Personal Representative, you are responsible for seeing that the estate plan is followed and that each beneficiary is awarded the correct amount. We recommend sending a copy of the will to the other beneficiaries that are listed to ensure transparency throughout the process.
- Create a Detailed Record-Keeping System
During your time as a Personal Representative, there will be many moving parts that may be forgotten about. It is important to remain organized and to take notes throughout the process.
- File the Will with the Probate Court and Obtain the Death Certificate
With the correct documentation it is fairly quick to receive the death certificate to continue the filing of the will with the Probate Court. We recommend that as you are obtaining the death certificate, you should also get several certified copies that may be needed further on in the Personal Representative process. As you file the will, it is recommended to have an attorney assist to help you understand the mandated court appearances and other court duties and deadlines that must be met.
- Notify Necessary Organization of the Death
Another responsibility of the Personal Representative is to give the correct notice to organizations and individuals that the person is deceased. An attorney can assist you with giving proper notice to creditors or other business ventures involved that the Personal Representative may not be aware about. It is essential to notify these collectors to ensure you do not have to pay it back later.
- Find, Value, and Protect the Assets
Assets should be document along with the value that they hold. This is not limited to the value of bank accounts and other financial accounts; all other personal and tangible properties should be accounted for. Hiring a Probate Attorney can assist this process and ensure you do not miss a step.
- Manage the Estate, Eliminating Unnecessary Costs
It is the Personal Representative's role to make sure money in the estate is not being wasted. By managing the estate, you are responsible for canceling unnecessary services. The earlier these subscriptions are canceled, the more money is kept in the estate for the beneficiaries.
- Determine and Pay the Debts of the Estate, Including Taxes
As mentioned before, the Personal Representative is responsible for paying bills and debts that are owed by the decedent out of the listed funds in the estate. The Personal Representative also has the responsibility of seeing that income and estate tax returns are prepared and filed correctly.
- Create a Plan for Distribution or Sale of Personal Property
You should contact a professional to assist with the monetary evaluation of assets within the decedent’s estate. This will help protect you against the questions of the beneficiaries and the distribution process. There may be personal property that beneficiaries do not want, which leaves the Personal Representative with the responsibility of overseeing the sale and distribution of the items.
- Distribute Estate According to Will and Close the Estate
The distribution of the estate can be conducted once all assets are valued and the interests of beneficiaries in the personal property are determined along with all debts being paid. What is left over will be calculated and distributed accordingly as stated in the decedent’s estate plan. Once this is complete, you should work with an attorney to conclude the Personal Representative process.
- Plan Your Own Estate!
Now that you have concluded serving as a Personal Representative and establishing connections with professionals, you should begin thinking about your own estate plan. Preparing an estate plan is an investment for yourself and your family. Having an estate plan will ensure that your wishes are fully honored.