Have you been asked to be the personal representative of an estate? Are you in the process of estate planning and are looking for the right person to choose to act as the personal representative of your estate after you pass? Knowing the role and responsibilities of a personal representative can be helpful in both of these situations. In the most basic sense, the personal representative of an estate is an individual or institution tasked with the administration of a decedent’s estate. Let us get into more specifics regarding the role of a personal representative.
What Is the Role of a Personal Representative?
The personal representative is a fiduciary role and is responsible for the settling and distribution of an estate according to the directions detailed in the decedent’s will or the intestate laws of the state in which the estate is set to be administered. Intestate laws would apply if the decedent died without a legally valid will in place. The role of a personal representative is not something to take lightly. Failure to uphold the duties imposed on a personal representative can result in exposure to legal liability for breach of fiduciary duty.
The personal representative must first open the estate by filing a petition for probate documents as well as the original death certificate of the decedent. The personal representative will need to obtain letters of administration that will grant him or her the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
Once officially appointed as personal representative by the probate court, the personal representative will need to identify and collect the assets of the estate. Estate assets include any property owned by the deceased at the time of death. The assets of the estate must be inventoried and valued. Proper valuation of estate assets may require professional assistance from someone such as a qualified appraiser. The personal representative will be responsible for protecting the property of the estate throughout probate proceedings.
The personal representative will also be responsible for paying the expenses of the estate, including valid creditor claims against the estate. Notice to potential creditors of the probate proceedings must be provided and any creditors with potential claims against the estate must respond to this notice within a prescribed time frame. When this time frame expires, the personal representative will then need to determine the validity of each asserted claim and pay all legitimate claims against the estate. For contested creditor claims, the personal representative will represent the interests of the estate.
At the end of the probate process, the personal representative is tasked with distributing the property of the estate to the appropriate beneficiaries as set forth in the decedent’s will or, in the absence of a will, according to the state’s intestacy laws. Once the probate court approves the final accounting of the estate and the assets are properly and fully distributed, then the estate will be considered closed and the role of the personal representative will come to an end.
Pittsburgh Estate Planning Attorney
Are you having trouble deciding who to select as the personal representative of your estate? Have you been named personal representative but are overwhelmed at the tasks at hand? The trusted estate planning legal team at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace is here to help. Contact us today.