The personal representative of an estate is the person in charge of settling a deceased person’s affairs. The personal representative must comply with the terms of the will if there is one and carefully follow legal requirements. The primary duties involve gathering assets, managing property, paying debts, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries.
The personal representative’s first task is to identify and collect the assets that are subject to probate. Locating important documents such as titles, account statements, insurance policies, and retirement plan information is a good starting point. It may be necessary to obtain appraisals to determine the value of assets.
After the decedent’s property is collected, the personal representative is responsible for preserving, managing, and protecting estate assets during administration. The personal representative should insure that he or she has legal authority before making any transactions and should keep full and adequate records.
The personal representative is in charge of paying final expenses and debts. The personal representative is also responsible for filing a final income tax return as well as any tax returns for the estate. Failure to timely file tax returns may result in personal liability.
The personal representative’s final task is to distribute the estate assets as soon as possible to the beneficiaries and close the estate. Distributions may not be made until the period for creditors to file claims has passed and until all debts, expenses, and taxes have been paid. The disbursements must be consistent with the will or probate laws if there is no will.
Settling an estate is a big responsibility, and organization is important. A checklist and calendar are good organizational tools. Additionally, establishing a team of advisors for guidance and assistance may make the process smoother.
Ashley Naramore is an estate planning attorney with her masters in Elder Law and Estate Planning. She practices primarily in Hot Springs and Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. Ashley helps clients throughout Arkansas as they age and as they deal with special needs.