If you have been asked to be a Personal Representative, there are some things you should know.
Being asked to be a Personal Representative indicates someone’s trust in you. You do not need special financial or legal knowledge to be a good Personal Representative. Common sense, conscientiousness and honesty are the main requirements.
If you have been nominated to be a Personal Representative, you are not obligated to serve. When the time comes, you may decide if you want to accept the responsibility. If you decide not to serve, or if you resign, an alternate named in the Will can take over.
As Personal Representative, your duties may include the following:
- Consulting with an attorney to decide whether probate proceedings are needed. You may need to probate, even if you do not have a Will.
- Filing the Will in the local probate court, asking the court to appoint you as Personal Representative and then shepherding the estate through probate.
- Deciding whether at least some assets can be transferred immediately, such as personal belongings to the people named in a tangible personal property list.
- Locating, inventorying, and securing estate assets and then sensibly managing them during the probate process. During this time, you may need to manage investments, pay bills, and sell items of estate property.
- Paying continuing expenses that are necessary to keep estate property secure—for example, mortgage payments, utility bills and homeowner’s insurance premiums.
- Handling day-to-day details, such as terminating leases and other outstanding contracts, and notifying banks and government agencies—such as the Social Security Administration, the Post Office, Medicare and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs—of the death, and the fact that you are winding up the affairs.
- Sending notice of the probate proceeding to the beneficiaries named in the Will.
- Paying any debts that the estate is legally required to pay. As part of this process, you may want to notify creditors of the probate proceeding. Creditors then have four months to file a claim for payment of any bills or other obligations incurred by the deceased person. If you do not file a notice, the debts are not cut off.
- You may have to file a final income tax return for the year in which the deceased person died.
- Finally, after debts and taxes have been paid you may distribute the remaining residuary estate to the persons named in the Will or to the heirs at law if there is no Will.
A lawyer will help you to probate the estate. You will still be responsible for making decisions and administering the estate, but the lawyer will guide you through the process and file documents with the probate court. You may be reimbursed out of the estate for your services or any expenses you incurred.
The main reason for acting as Personal Representative is to honor the person who requested you to serve and to make sure his or her wishes are carried out.
Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability, and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial, or healthcare needs, please call us.