Probate and the Personal Representative
The decedent's estate is administered by a personal representative. If the will names the personal representative, then he or she is called the executor of the will. If the person dies intestate or the will does not appoint an executor or the named executor declines the appointment, then the probate court will appoint an administrator who will execute the decedent's estate.
Duties of a Personal Representative
As a fiduciary, a Personal Representative must settle and distribute the estate of the decedent as efficiently as possible by adhering to the directions outlined in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament and the probate laws of the state where the estate is being administered.
The primary duty is to protect the estate in a manner consistent with the decedent’s wishes. Although this may appear relatively simple, it is important that the Personal Representative understand the responsibilities associated with the position. As a word of caution, failure to adhere to these duties and responsibilities can result in the filing of lawsuits against the Personal Representative of the estate for breach of fiduciary duty.
Generally speaking, a Personal Representative is responsible for collecting the assets of the estate, protecting the estate property, preparing an inventory of the property, paying valid claims (including debts and taxes) against the estate, representing the estate in claims against others and distributing the estate property to the beneficiaries. However, the Will can impose additional duties on the Personal Representative that are not required by law.