The personal representative, or executor, of an estate is an important role. In the State of Minnesota, the personal representative is the person chosen to administer a deceased person’s estate and settle their final affairs. They are either named in a legal will, or they can be chosen by the probate court if no will is present. If you have been chosen as a personal representative/executor, a Minnesota estate planning attorney from Segal Duffek Moen PLLC can assist you with many of the tasks you must perform.
Duties of a Personal Representative/Executor
The duties involved in an estate administration are numerous, and will vary from one estate to the next. Allowing time for the different aspects of probate to be carried out (some have time frames mandated by law), the process can take about a year to complete. Below are the basic duties you may be required to carry out.
Secure an Estate Planning Attorney
This is not just an advertisement. Mistakes in probate can cost you and the estate money. An experienced estate planning attorney can make sure all the steps are carried out in the proper order and in a timely manner, keeping you safe from liability.
Secure All Necessary Documents
You will need to get a copy of the legal will to ensure that you understand all its provisions. An estate planning attorney can help you with any portions you do not understand. You will also need other documents that are pertinent to the probate process. These can include:
- Death certificate
- Insurance policies
- Stock certificates
- Deeds to property
- Tax returns
- Final pay stubs/benefit lists
- Debt contracts
- Business-related contracts and forms
Make sure you get legal, certified copies of all documents and keep the originals in a secure location. Your attorney can provide invaluable assistance with locating and securing documents.
Apply for Probate
If a legal will exists, the probate court will grant you letters testamentary. If there is no will, you will receive letters of administration. These documents make your work as the personal representative official and will be required by entities with whom you will have to work.
Send Notifications to Interested Parties
You are required to notify all interested parties of the death of the decedent. Interested parties include the beneficiaries listed in the will, other relatives or heirs (even those not named as beneficiaries) and known creditors. You also must place an ad in local newspapers for other potential creditors.
Manage the Estate Property
You should prepare a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, and locate or collect any property, even any that is in the hands of other people. You may also need to hire an appraiser to establish values for some property. It is your responsibility to protect the property from loss until it is distributed according to the instructions contained in the will.
Settle Valid Debts
Once you have obtained a complete list of creditors and validated their claims, you must settle all outstanding debts from the estate’s funds. Generally, the funeral expenses are paid first, followed by probate and administration fees and taxes. Debts must be paid before any property is distributed to beneficiaries; this is in case some property must be liquidated to cover outstanding debts.
Distribute Assets According to the Will
After all debts and taxes are settled, you are responsible for distributing the remaining assets according to the instructions in the will. This may also include selling property or establishing trusts. Again, an estate planning attorney can be of significant help with these tasks.
Provide the Final Report to the Court
Once all matters of the estate are settled, you are responsible for reporting this fact to the probate court. You should keep accurate records of all matters, which will be reviewed by the court. Once your work has been approved, the court will close the estate.
If this seems like quite a lot of work, that’s because it usually is just that – work. Contact Segal Duffek Moen PLLC today if you have been chosen as the personal representative/executor of an estate to begin preparations for this important task.