When a person dies with a Will in place, a Personal Representative or Executor is named as the responsible individual for winding down the decedent’s affairs. In situations in which a Will has not been prepared, the probate court will appoint someone to that role. Whether you have been named or appointed, the role comes with certain responsibilities including taking charge of the decedent’s assets, notifying beneficiaries and creditors, paying the estate’s debts, and distributing the property to the beneficiaries.
In some cases, a Personal Representative may also be a beneficiary of the Will, however he or she must act fairly and in accordance with the provisions of the Will. A Personal Representative is specifically responsible for:
- Finding a copy of the Will and filing it with the appropriate state court
- Informing third parties, such as banks and other account holders, of the person’s death
- Locating assets and identifying debts
- Providing the court with an inventory of these assets and debts
- Maintaining any assets until they are disposed of
- Disposing of assets either through distribution or sale
- Satisfying any debts
- Appearing in court on behalf of the estate
Depending on the size of the estate and the way in which the decedent’s assets were titled, the Will may need to be probated. If the estate must go through a probate proceeding, the Personal Representative must file with the court to probate the will and be appointed as the estate’s agent.
By doing so, the Personal Representative can then pay all the decedent’s outstanding debts and distribute the property to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will. The Personal Representative is also is also responsible for filing all federal and state tax returns for the deceased person as well as estate taxes, if any. Lastly, a Personal Representative may be entitled to compensation for the time he or she served the estate.
In the end, being named or appointed as a Personal Representative ultimately means supporting the overall goal of distributing the estate assets according to wishes of the deceased or state law. In either case, an experienced probate or estate planning attorney can help you carry out these duties.