What Is The Role of a Personal Representative in a Probate Case?

Finding oneself as a designated Personal Representative by a loved one’s Last Will & Testament can be an unanticipated discovery. Though it is a good practice to discuss these matters with loved ones before naming them in a Will, those conversations do not always occur in time to prepare the person named in the Will. What are the responsibilities of a designated Personal Representative? What if the designee does not wish, or is unable, to be the Personal Representative? What does the Court require of a Personal Representative?

Often a spouse or family member is designated as a Personal Representative, however, the author of the Will may designate a friend, family member, or legal advisor as a Personal Representative. The investment of authority in the Personal Representative does not occur automatically at the time of death, however. Once the Last Will & Testament has been submitted to the Probate Court, the Personal Representative must request that Court authenticate the Will (verify it is valid), and Appoint the designated person as Personal Representative. Only after the Court formally appoints the Personal Representative can he/she begin to act on the behalf of the Decedent to close the Decedent’s estate within the guidelines of the Probate laws.  

What if the Personal Representative Does Not Wish/Is Unable to fulfill the role of Personal Representative?

There may a number of reasons for someone to refuse appointment as Personal Representative. Wills often name an alternative Personal Representative in case this situation arises. If this is the case, the designated representative can petition the Court to appoint a successor Personal Representative named by the Will, or recommend another person to fulfill the role of Personal Representative for the Deceased’s Estate.

What are the Duties of the Personal Representative?

As a Personal Representative of a loved-one’s estate, the Personal Representative accepts the fiduciary duties associated with this role which include managing the estate funds and assets responsibly and according to the Decedent’s wishes. Though Probate laws are unique to each state, the Personal Representative’s duties generally include, but are not limited to, locating the estate assets, notifying creditors, estimating estate taxes, and paying final estate expenses.

This is a condensed version of the Probate process, and managing this process is less intimidating with the guidance of a law firm that is familiar with the process, and ready to provide answers to the questions that are unique to each family estate. Please feel free to reach out to Behrends Legal to find out more about how we can help with the Probate process.

*This article is not intended to be construed as legal advice, and does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship. Prior to making any significant decisions related to its content, you should seek the counsel of a licensed lawyer for your state.