A Personal Representative (sometimes also referred to as an executor) is the person who is named in a will to manage the decedent’s affairs after death.   This role is an important one.  Oftentimes, understanding what the role entails can help in making the decision of who to name in your will to act as Personal Representative.  If you do not name a Personal Representative in your will, that determination will be made by the court.

While being named Personal Representative is oftentimes viewed as an honor, it is also a big responsibility. Usually, a Personal Representative is a child or capable relative who stands to inherit a portion of the deceased person’s assets. He or she is expected to act in good faith, and to diligently and honestly follow the law while settling the estate.  The legal term for this good faith dealing describes the personal representative’s “fiduciary duty” to the estate.

In the event a probate is needed, the Personal Representative of your estate must present the court with not just your will, but a complete accounting of your assets and debts.  He or she must then follow the court’s instructions in managing those assets until the probate process is completed, and the beneficiaries of the will receive their inheritance.  Naming a Personal Representative in your will is an important decision because the assignment can be complicated, depending on the size of your estate. A Personal Representative may be entitled to a fee as compensation for administering the will.  Most Personal Representatives do not have legal training and may choose to hire an attorney to help with the probate of the will.  Attorney fees are oftentimes reimbursed from the estate.
The Personal Representative is responsible for closing the entire estate, which may include:

  1. Determining if the estate needs to be probated – and if so, initiating the probate proceedings. This may or may not include having the will validated, notifying creditors, and complying with other filing requirement under Minnesota Law;
  2. Collecting and preserving all property of the decedent and filing an itemized inventory list of all assets and their value on date of death. A separate bank account must be opened for estate and the Personal Representative must keep accurate records of all assets;
  3. Wrapping up the deceased’s affairs. This can include canceling credit cards, notifying banks and contacting the Social Security Administration. It may include receiving interest, dividends, and income payments due the decedent;
  4. Finding and identifying people who stand to inherit from the estate, including validating claims from those not named in the will;
  5. Paying bills and outstanding obligations of the decedent while the will is being settled. The Personal Representative may also need to address or defend creditor claims that arise;
  6. Filing federal, state, and estate tax returns and paying taxes or collecting returns; and
  7. Preparing and filing a final accounting of all estate income and distributions.

There are other duties and responsibilities that may arise, depending on the complexity of the estate.  Writing a will and planning your estate will give you peace of mind that your loved ones are taken care of after you pass. Before choosing a Personal Representative for your will, you will want to have a solid understanding of what that role entails. Learn more by making an appointment with Schromen Law LLC, where you can discuss and review your selection of a Personal Representative as part of your estate planning.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

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