Personal Representative: What You Need to Know

  1. You are serving in a fiduciary capacity for and on behalf of the heirs, devisees or next-of-kin of the decedent. This is a responsible undertaking.
  2. Unless you are exempt under a Will, you are required to file a bond with the Court through a surety company. The bond premium must be paid when the bond is executed and there will be a premium due each year thereafter until the estate is closed.
  3. The names, ages, addresses, relationship to the decedent, and soundness of mind of each of the heirs, devisees and next-of-kin, with Social Security Numbers, should be ascertained as soon as possible.
  4. Unless you are exempt under a Will, you are required to file an inventory with the Court within 60 days after you appointment, and same must be sworn to. It is important that you list all of the known assets of the estate, and the value thereof, in this inventory. If an inventory is necessary, upon your providing the information, we will prepare the proper paperwork for submission to the Court. You will need to execute the inventory once it is prepared. This must be completed within 60 days of the issuance of Letters.
  5. You are required to collect the assets of the estate and keep the liquid assets in any interest bearing account at a bank. Fixed assets, such as real estate and items of personal property, are your responsibility during the administration of the estate, and are to be disposed of either by liquidation, with consent and approval from the court, or according to the terms of a Will. None of the assets are to be used by you personally.
  6. If real estate is an asset of the estate and you are a Personal Representative, the Will might give you authority to sell real or personal property without an order of the Court. If you are an Administrator (No Will) then you have no authority to sell or dispose of real or personal property without prior approval from the Court.
  7. You are required to keep accurate records of what you receive and what you pay out. It is recommended that you open a checking account as Personal Representative of the estate so that all charges against the estate can be paid by check. The Estate needs a Federal EIN to open up that account. Please use caution when paying items from any estate checking account.
  8. After the issuance of Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, Creditors of the estate have a six month period in which to file a claim with the Court against the estate. If you have knowledge of a claim against the estate, you are required to notify the creditor(s) in writing to file a claim. If a creditor does not file a claim within 30 days after such notice and within the six-month period for claims of creditors to be filed, then such claim(s) will be forever barred. This does not apply to the administrative charges such as bond premiums or court costs. The Court does allow the Personal Representative to pay necessary charges on real estate such as taxes, insurance, utilities or reasonable repairs necessary to preserve the property. Funeral expenses can be paid without a claim being filed. As a Personal Representative, the Will may give you authority to pay bills of the decedent without any claim being filed with the Court. Please consult with me before paying any bill. Please call to provide the name, address and account number of any known creditors.
  9. Unless you are exempt under a Will, a Personal Representative is required to make a final settlement of his/her acts and doings after the six-month period for claims of creditors has expired, provided all assets are collected and all charges are paid. At that time, a detailed accounting with supporting evidence must be filed with the Court, and notice must be given to the beneficiaries. You will need to show in an orderly fashion, money “in” and “out”.
  10. It is important that the Personal Representative file tax returns. Such as personal income tax of the decedent, for the year in which the decedent died, and fiduciary tax returns for the taxable income of the estate, such as interest derived from investments of the estate funds, for the period of administration. It is usually necessary to secure a Tax Identification Number (EIN) for the estate from the Internal Revenue Service for tax reporting purposes.
  11. Remember that you are acting in a fiduciary capacity for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the estate in a testamentary proceeding. Normally, you are allowed a commission for serving as such Personal Representative, which is to be set by the Judge on final settlement, as well as attorney’s fees. However, in some instances attorneys require a retainer fee when the estate is first opened and the Judge will take this into consideration on final settlement. As a Personal Representative, the Will may authorize a commission and other necessary expenses without a final settlement and without an Order of the Court.