You have been selected to serve as the personal representative/executor of a Minnesota estate by a decedent. Your responsibilities will vary according to the size and complexity of the estate, but they are generally set forth in state law. An experienced estate planning and probate attorney from Segal Duffek Moen PLLC in Minneapolis can provide the assistance you need for all your executor obligations.

What Does a Personal Representative/Executor Do?

Your duties as a personal representative/executor are basically to carry out the instructions set forth in the decedent’s last will and testament according to state law. It is important to note that there are time limitations attached to some of these duties, so assistance from a probate attorney is critical to ensure you carry out your responsibilities efficiently. These duties can include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Obtain and secure necessary documents (death certificate, insurance policies, stock certificates, deeds, tax returns, pay and benefit statements, certificates of debt, etc.)
  • Apply for letters testamentary from the probate court (these are proof of your legal authority as executor of the estate and will be required by many entities)
  • Provide notifications of the decedent’s death to interested parties (this includes beneficiaries, known creditors and a public notice for anyone wishing to make a claim for debts)
  • Secure and appraise the value of all estate property
  • Validate and settle outstanding estate debts (this may require liquidating some estate property)
  • Distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the instructions in the will
  • Provide a final report to the probate court and close the estate

There may be other duties required of the personal representative/executor. For example, if the decedent owned a business, or was a part owner, there may be business-related duties left to the executor. Any disputes by a beneficiary or petition to the probate court will also involve the executor.

What Should A Personal Representative/Executor NOT Do?

These are some serious mistakes you could make as the personal representative/executor of an estate, and they could make you legally responsible for some debts or other liabilities.

Do Not Ignore Any Claims from Creditors

Minnesota law allows creditors four months to submit a claim for payment to an estate. It is best to wait until this time period has expired before paying any creditors. This allows sufficient time to receive all claims and to validate each claim.

Do Not Distribute Assets to Beneficiaries Before Paying Estate Debts

Minnesota State Law stipulates that debts be paid in a certain order, and that they be paid first, before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries. Even if the estate goes broke and nothing will be left for beneficiaries (although bequests were made in the will), debts must be settled first.

Do Not Use Estate Funds for Your Own Needs

As the personal representative/executor, you are entitled to be reimbursed for any expenses you incur while carrying out your duties, but that is all. Plus, it is always best to verify these expenses with a probate attorney or the probate court and pay them as a legitimate debt from estate funds. Keep accurate records of all these verified expenditures.

Do Not Disobey Orders from the Probate Court

Although you are acting as the personal representative/executor of another person’s estate, you are acting under the authority of the probate court. Their orders supersede any requests in the will. For example, bequests to beneficiaries may have been recorded in the will. But if the estate has excessive debts, the probate court may order you to liquidate some estate assets in order to pay these debts, even though this means beneficiaries will not receive their bequests. You may wish to give away the assets, but you must follow the court orders to liquidate them and cover the debts first.

Serving as a personal representative/executor of an estate is a difficult and time-consuming job. Get the help you need with legal matters and other duties by contacting Segal Duffek Moen PLLC today. We can help you carry out this role with accuracy and integrity.