As a Personal Representative, What’s Next?

by | Apr 24, 2024

Assuming the role of a personal representative, whether designated in a Will or appointed by the court, can seem daunting. You’re likely grappling with numerous questions: What exactly is probate? How does it function? How long does it typically take? And what exactly are my obligations throughout this process? But fear not, because here at Axis Law Group, your local estate planning and probate law firm, we firmly believe that knowledge breeds confidence. Keep reading for a thorough breakdown of the responsibilities that come with being a personal representative.

 

When is Probate Necessary?

Probate often feels like a mysterious process – you know it exists, but its intricacies may elude you. Before we delve into the specifics of probate, let’s first understand what prompts it. Probate becomes necessary if: (1) the deceased’s total assets, as of 2024, amount to $40,000 without designated beneficiaries, or (2) the deceased owned real property such as land or a house. If either of these conditions applies to the estate, probate could indeed be on the horizon. For guidance on sidestepping probate, refer to our separate blog post here. When probate becomes requisite, the role of the personal representative comes into play. Next, we’ll outline the probate process itself and delineate the duties of a personal representative throughout.

 

What is Probate?

In its essence, probate is the legal mechanism through which the court allocates the assets of the deceased. In Missouri, probate mandates a minimum duration of six months and ten days. During this period, a personal representative engages in five primary steps:

 

Validating the Will:

Should the deceased have left a Will, the court first scrutinizes its validity. This entails assessing the deceased’s mental capacity at the time of signing, determining if any coercion was involved, and verifying adherence to legal formalities such as notarization and witnessing. If the Will is deemed valid, it serves as a blueprint for asset distribution. If not, the state’s intestacy laws dictate how the estate is dispersed.

Appointing a Personal Representative:

A crucial function of a Will or intestacy statute is the appointment of a personal representative, also known as an executor. This individual is tasked with estate administration, ensuring assets are ready for transfer or sale to rightful beneficiaries and affording creditors an opportunity to make claims against the estate.

Inventorying Assets:

Probate entails the distribution of estate assets. To administer the estate faithfully according to the deceased’s wishes or intestacy laws, an inventory of the estate is imperative. This inventory enables the personal representative to assess the estate’s total value and identify assets earmarked for specific beneficiaries or creditors.

Settling Debts and Taxes:

Certain creditors hold priority in repayment over beneficiaries. Thus, the personal representative must notify creditors of the deceased’s passing and ensure they have an opportunity to file claims within a specified timeframe. Additionally, settling the estate’s taxes is paramount, requiring expertise in probate tax filings, often best facilitated by a knowledgeable CPA.

Distributing Assets:

Finally, the remaining estate is distributed to beneficiaries. As previously mentioned, asset distribution follows the directives of a valid Will or intestacy statute if no Will exists.

How Legal Assistance Can Aid?

If the intricacies of the probate process and the duties of a personal representative seem overwhelming, fret not. At Axis Law Group, we guide countless individuals through this journey. Here’s how we lend our support:

 

Estate Planning:

By entrusting your estate planning to us, you can be confident that your documents will withstand probate scrutiny if the need arises. You can trust us to handle the necessary legal formalities upfront, ensuring the validity of your documents.

Initiating Probate:

Navigating the initial steps of probate can be daunting. Our team at Axis Law Group streamlines this process, expediting probate commencement and conclusion. Whether dealing with a Will or intestacy, allow our attorneys to assist you during this challenging period.

Asset Inventory and Creditors:

We equip you with guidance and useful tools for inventorying the estate. Moreover, we handle creditor notifications on your behalf, alleviating this burden from the probate process. Additionally, we routinely communicate and negotiate with creditors to minimize their claims, enhancing the likelihood of beneficiaries receiving their rightful share.

By clarifying timelines, facilitating beneficiary communication, and maintaining meticulous records, Axis Law Group simplifies the probate process and ensures your tenure as a personal representative is as seamless as possible. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today and let us navigate you through this challenging period.