Navigating responsibilities of being appointed an estate personal representative or administrator

by Molly Musler | Sep 20, 2023

The passing of a loved one is a trying time, especially for the person appointed in a will or otherwise selected by a court to fill the personal representative role. This position carries fiduciary responsibilities when handling the legal and financial affairs of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of both the estate and the decedent’s beneficiaries.

If your loved-one’s assets were not managed through an irrevocable trust, a court managed process referred as probate or estate administration is undertaken by the personal representative to manage and distribute the estate. Each estate is unique, yet there are some similarities. Several steps a personal representative needs to complete can include:

  • Filing of a petition with the proper probate court
  • Notification to heirs under the will or to statutory heirs if no will exists
  • Petition to appoint the personal representative under the will or an administrator when there is no will
  • Create an inventory and appraisal of estate assets
  • Pay estate debts
  • Sell estate assets
  • Pay estate taxes
  • Final distribution of assets to heirs

A few of the steps noted above are required to occur shortly after your loved one’s passing. It can be helpful to coordinate with the estate attorney, especially to understand the deadlines for specific responsibilities.

Some assets are not probate assets and do not go through probate for distribution yet may be included in the final income tax return and/or estate tax returns. These include:

  • Retirement assets, such as IRA, 401(k), and 403(b) accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Assets titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS or JT TEN)
  • Bank accounts titled with pay on death (POD)
  • Assets held in a living trust

Scheduling time to accomplish personal representative responsibilities will reduce stress and help you manage a difficult time. For another resource that might be of interest, see our blog post on using trust funds to minimize estate taxes. Please contact us for a conversation on personal representative responsibilities.

This blog post is intended as education and is not legal advice.

Blog originally posted on September 18, 2023


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