Before we get into the nitty gritty, a “Personal Representative” is the person appointed in a Will. A Will by itself does not avoid probate; that time consuming and expensive court process that is discussed here: A Will is typically used as an instruction sheet for probate, whereas a Trust instructs the Trustee on where assets should go while avoiding probate.
What are the Responsibilities of a Personal Representative?
Generally speaking, a Personal Representative has four jobs:
- Locate your assets
- Value those assets
- Pay any potential creditors
- Distribute the assets in accordance with the Will
Seems simple, right? Not entirely. A Personal Representative has the legal duty to ensure the estate was handled and closed properly. This entails more than just simply locating your assets and passing them around. The Personal Representative has to first be appointed by the probate court. Once they are officially appointed, they will receive Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration) which tells financial institutions that they have the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
Once the assets have all been located and an estate account has been opened, the Personal Representative must give notice to creditors via publication in a newspaper and direct notice to any known creditors. There are statutory deadlines that must be followed to ensure creditors have been given adequate notice. Once notice has been given, the Personal Representative must wait until the creditor deadline has passed.
Assuming there is enough in the estate to pay creditor claims, the Personal Representative also needs to make sure the decedent’s taxes were completed. The estate account cannot be closed until any tax returns have been deposited.
Once taxes have been handled, creditors have been paid, and any real property has been sold or transferred, they can make distributions to the named beneficiaries.
Probate has to be open for at least six months and it is costing anywhere from $10-15,000. The probate process delays the time frame and the amount with which your beneficiaries will inherit. That is why it is important that your estate plan avoids probate.
Book a free initial consultation to discuss the best ways to ensure your family does not have to deal with probate!