Your Responsibilities If Named as Personal Representative of a Will
The personal representative is the person charged with managing a decedent’s estate. It is a position of trust with important duties that must be faithfully and efficiently carried out. These responsibilities begin with submitting the will for probate.
The person named as personal representative in the will must first determine if probate is necessary. If the value of the estate’s personal property and real property falls below statutorily set amounts, then it can be distributed using the small-estate affidavit procedure. Otherwise, formal or informal probate may be necessary, depending on the complexity of the estate. In either case, the personal representative needs to be appointed by the court. The personal representative then must give notice of probate to all beneficiaries named in the will as well as the decedent’s heirs at law — that is, people who might be entitled to share in the estate if there were no will. This gives the heirs an opportunity to come forward and challenge the will if good cause can be shown. The will must then be proved by showing that it was executed properly and that the testator was competent to make a will and not affected by constraint or undue influence.
Once the will is declared valid by the court, all assets subject to probate — such as a house, vehicles, bank accounts, and financial instruments — must be located and safeguarded until they can be distributed. Written notice must be mailed to all known creditors of the deceased, stating that the estate is in probate and that they have to present their claims within a set period of time. The personal representative must publish a similar notice in a newspaper that circulates in the county where the decedent lived prior to their death.
The personal representative establishes a bank account for the estate that is used for depositing estate assets and paying off debts. The personal representative will eventually distribute the estate property, after handling any tax chores and providing an inventory and/or accounting of the estate administration to all devisees or heirs.
The role of the personal representative is extensive and demanding and in most cases requires the assistance of a dedicated probate attorney. To learn more about how Jeffrey P. Hall, PLLC, can assist you with your responsibilities as an personal representative in the Phoenix metropolitan area, call us at 480-409-5174 or contact us online for a free consultation.