When a person creates a Will, he or she appoints someone to serve as Personal Representative for his or her estate. Often times, a person appoints a family member or friend to serve as his or her Personal Representative after he or she passes. In other cases, a professional fiduciary or trust company is the best choice. It can be a time-consuming responsibility, but you may feel a duty to the person who has died to help carry out their wishes. Personal Representatives are entitled to be paid for their services, but you must keep careful records of the time you spend on estate business and out-of-pocket expenses you pay for the estate. If you are appointed as Personal Representative in a person’s Will and do not wish to serve, you can waive your right to serve. Also, you can request that the Court appoint another person to serve with you or in your place. You may not wish to serve as Personal Representative because of the possibility of finding yourself in the middle of a family dispute over assets. Also, you may be personally liable if certain tax deadlines are not met or fiduciary duties not fulfilled. The Court decides if you have to be bonded and in what amount. Many times the Will waives the posting of a bond, but the Court may still require a small bond to be posted.
A Personal Representative has many duties and responsibilities. You must keep detailed administration records. A Personal Representative signs all inventories, tax returns, accountings, and Court petitions. As the Personal Representative, you are liable for filing all these documents on time. Hiring an attorney to help you with the estate administration ensures that these documents are prepared correctly and filed at the various deadlines. Some of these filing deadlines include: the inventory, final income tax returns, estate income tax returns, and the federal estate tax return. You must never put the decedent’s checks or estate monies into your personal bank account. All estate checks and monies must be kept in a separate bank account from your own.
Distribution to heirs is made just prior to the closing of the estate, after an Accounting has been filed with the Court. Sometimes, partial distributions are made earlier. The heirs have a right to know what is going on in the estate administration. If someone questions or objects to any of your actions, you might need to appear in court as Personal Representative. However, if you can show the court that what you have done is proper, then the objections will be overruled.
All estates must stay open a minimum of three months from the first date the notice of administration is published in the newspaper. The length of time it will take to close the estate will depend on the type and extent of assets in the estate, whether any claims are filed, and whether anyone objects to your actions or expenses you paid. In a supervised estate, your duties and responsibilities as Personal Representative are over when the Court enters an Order closing the estate and discharging you as Personal Representative. In an unsupervised estate, your duties and responsibilities are over three months after your attorney files a closing statement as long as no objections are filed.