A personal representative is an individual or entity identified by a deceased person in their Last Will and Testament to carry out the responsibilities related to the Administration and Distribution of their Estate.
The role of a personal representative is to ensure that the deceased's wishes, as outlined in their will, are carried out in accordance with state Probate laws.
Personal representatives can be Surviving Family members, friends, professionals, or institutions, depending on the preferences of the deceased person and the complexity of the estate.
It's important that the personal representative be trustworthy, organized, and capable of handling the responsibilities of the role because they can be held liable if the estate is mismanaged purposely or accidentally, and loses value.
If a personal representative cannot do the job for whatever reason, or if the deceased did not have a valid will at the time of their death, then the state is responsible for identifying and appointing an executor. However, in this case, they are known as an Administrator.
The roles of administrator and personal representative are similar, they bear the same legal responsibilities, but the terms are used differently. In cases where the deceased did not leave a valid will and name someone to do this work, the term "administrator" is used instead of "personal representative."
Key responsibilities of an personal representative include:
Probate Process: The personal representative's first task is to initiate the probate process by filing the will with the appropriate court. Probate is the legal process through which the court validates a will, appoints an executor, and supervises payment of Debt and distribution of Assets.
Identifying Assets and Liabilities: The personal representative is responsible for locating and identifying all the assets and liabilities of the deceased person's estate. This includes bank accounts, investments, real estate, personal property, debts, loans, and more.
Notification of Death: The personal representative informs relevant parties, such as financial institutions, creditors, and government agencies, of the person's death.
Inventory and Appraisal: The personal representative might need to prepare an Inventory and Appraisal of the estate's assets. This is important for determining the estate's overall Fair Market Value and ensuring proper distribution.
Paying Debts and Taxes: The personal representative ensures that all debts, bills, and taxes owed by the deceased person and the estate are paid using estate funds. This includes filing the final income tax return for the deceased.
Distributing Assets: Once debts and taxes are settled, the personal representative oversees the distribution of the remaining assets to the Beneficiaries named in the will, according to the deceased person's wishes.
Managing Estate Property: During the probate process, the personal representative may need to manage and maintain estate property, such as real estate, until it is distributed to the beneficiaries.
Communicating with Beneficiaries: The personal representative communicates with the beneficiaries to keep them informed about the progress of the estate administration, including asset distribution and any challenges that may arise.
Filing Required Documents: The personal representative is responsible for filing various legal documents with the court, such as an accounting of the estate's financial transactions.
Resolving Disputes: If disputes or disagreements arise among beneficiaries, the personal representative may play a role in helping to resolve these issues.
Estate Closure: Once all the tasks are completed, the personal representative files a final accounting with the court and obtains court approval for the Final Distribution of Assets. This marks the conclusion of the estate administration process.