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Laura A. Laskey, Partner, Barbur Laskey LLC

The Role and Duties of a Personal Representative

| Laura A. Laskey, Partner, Barbur Laskey LLC

One of the main purposes of preparing a Will is to nominate a personal representative, who is the person trusted to handle the testator’s estate. If a family member or friend has let you know that they have nominated you as their personal representative in their Will, you may be wondering what the role of personal representative entails.

Having been nominated in someone’s Will is the first step to becoming a personal representative; however, one is not formally in that position until they have been appointed by the probate court. If a loved one has passed away and you are their personal representative, your first step should be to contact a knowledgeable probate attorney. Your attorney will help you identify the correct estate process to initiate. If a full probate estate is the appropriate course of action, your attorney will then help you to become appointed as personal representative through the probate court.

Once you have been appointed as personal representative, your job is to manage the assets owned by the estate, with the ultimate goal of distributing those assets in accordance with the Will of the decedent (or the laws of intestacy if the decedent did not have a Will). Because the assets of individuals can vary widely, so can the roles and duties of the personal representative. Often, the role of personal representative involves liquidating assets. This can take the form of selling a home, selling vehicles, and closing and liquidating bank and investment accounts or stock portfolios.

A personal representative is also responsible for completing a diligent search for any creditors of the estate, including mortgages, credit cards, hospital bills, utility bills, and so forth. This requires keeping an eye on incoming mail for bills, completing a review of the decedent’s financial records and taxes, and providing official notice (with your attorney’s assistance) to any potential creditors. When the time comes, any valid claims are paid from the funds of the estate.

Another duty of a personal representative is to keep the estate beneficiaries reasonably informed and apprised of the status of the estate. Your attorney will handle all required formal notices to the beneficiaries, however, the personal representative is encouraged to take on the role of communicating with beneficiaries to keep them updated. These updates can include the expected timeline of the liquidation of major assets, such as the sale of a home.

Some responsibilities of the personal representative can be delegated when others are willing to help. The personal representative is ultimately responsible for things like cleaning up personal property and disposing of waste, however, if there are friends or family members willing to help, the personal representative can certainly accept help for those kinds of duties. The personal representative may also contract with professionals for work that needs to be done. A personal representative may use estate funds to pay for work that may be necessary to prepare a home or other asset for sale or utilize any other professional services that may be necessary for the ultimate goals of the estate. Personal representatives are encouraged to work with professionals such as accountants, and estate funds may be used for such services.

While the role of personal representative can be a big job, you can consider it an honor to be entrusted with that position by your loved one who passed away. We at Barbur Law are here to help you in your role as personal representative by guiding you through the process every step of the way.