A Minneapolis Probate Lawyer Helps You Understand the Responsibilities of Being a Personal Representative (Executor) for an Estate
You remember so clearly how proud you were when you received the telephone call from your Aunt Emma! She gleefully told you that she just had a new will prepared and named you as the Personal Representative. You felt as if a great honor had been bestowed upon you. After all, this will prove once and for all to the rest of your family that you are the most responsible person to handle such an important matter.
Aunt Emma dies and you find that being named a personal representative is the most thankless honor someone could bestow upon you. Other heirs are calling you and demanding to receive their money right now; or asking if you would mind if they just went over to the house and picked up the jewelry that Aunt Emma promised them; or the funeral home is calling to say they want to be paid by the end of the week. You are beginning to realize that just maybe you should not have “volunteered” quite so quickly for this job.
The first priority for a personal representative is to find out if the deceased had a valid Will, so you need to locate the original Will. You should also be sure to order certified copies of the Death Certificate if that hasn’t already been done and notify all persons who have an interest in the estate, including those who are named as beneficiaries in the Will and any known creditors. A list of all assets must be compiled, including value at the date of death.
You are responsible for securing all assets, whether by taking possession of them, or by obtaining adequate insurance. Assets of the estate include all real and personal property owned by the decedent; overlooked assets sometimes include stocks, bonds, pension funds, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, annuity payments, holiday pay, and work-related life insurance or survivor benefits. The personal representative must also compile a list of the decedent’s debts, including, credit card accounts, loan payments, mortgages, home utilities, tax arrears, alimony and outstanding leases.
Whether the Will must be probated depends on a variety of factors, including size of the estate and how the decedent’s assets were titled. An experienced probate or estate planning attorney can help determine whether probate is required, and assist with carrying out the personal representative’s duties. If the estate must go through probate, the personal representative must file the appropriate documents with the probate court in order to be appointed legal representative. Upon approval of the appointment, the court will issue a document called Letters Testamentary authorizing the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate to pay all of the decedent’s outstanding debts, provided there are sufficient assets in the estate. After debts have been paid, the personal representative must distribute the remaining real and personal property to the beneficiaries, in accordance with the wishes set forth in the Will. Because the personal representative is accountable to the beneficiaries of the estate, it is extremely important to keep complete, accurate records of all expenditures, correspondence, asset distribution, and filings with the court and government agencies.
The personal representative is also responsible for filing all tax returns for the deceased person including federal and state income tax returns and estate tax filings, if applicable. Please note that Minnesota law entitles a personal representative to reasonable compensation for his or her services. Unfortunately, there is no guidance offered on the appropriate amount of this fee so it’s a good idea to discuss compensation with o