Personal representative refers to a person who manages the estate of a deceased person. Estate administrators are appointed within decedent's last will and testament. If no Will exists, personal representatives are appointed by a probate judge.
A personal representative usually requires legal assistance from a probate or estate planning lawyer. Estate settlement must adhere to state probate laws and involves submitting various documents to the court. Few people are prepared to undergo the process of probate alone.
On average, probate takes six to nine months to complete. Throughout the probate process, estate administrators are responsible for various duties including acting as a fiduciary. This means the personal representative is responsible for all financial aspects of estate settlement.
Probate laws vary by state, but most require Administrators to establish a bank account for the estate to record financial transactions. Some states require executors to obtain authorization from the court before entering into any financial or real estate related transactions, while others only require court supervision for major decisions such as selling inheritance property.
Probate personal representatives are compensated for their duties. Fees are based according to each state's probate laws. Personal representative compensation is typically paid at an hourly rate, flat fee, or percentage of estate value.
Estate conservator fees are paid by the estate. Decedents can establish an estate management fund and deposit anticipated fees into the account. Funds are used for legal fees, court costs, filing fees, and personal representative compensation.
Administrators act as a guardian of the estate. It is best to appoint someone who is financially responsible and can work well under pressure. Oftentimes, decedents appoint a family member to this position. This can place a heavy burden on the individual; particularly if family discord exists.
When heirs are inclined to protest over decedents' last wills, it is recommended to retain the services of a probate attorney to engage in estate settlement. Heirs are less likely to contest a will when lawyers act as the Trustee. Contesting a will can cause probate to be suspended for months or years and potentially bankrupt the estate with legal defense fees.
When family members are appointed, it is best to designate two personal representatives within the Will. Should the primary executor be unable to perform estate management duties; the secondary probate executor can assume duties without extending the probate process.
Engaging in estate planning is the most valuable gift you can give your loved ones. If you have not already executed a last will, now is the time to do so. At minimum, estate planning should include a legal Will, healthcare proxies and durable power of attorney.
We invite you to learn more about estate planning and probate in our personal representative article library. Topics include: inheritance taxes, establishing trusts, how to avoid probate, how to execute a last will, and much more.
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Published on January 04, 2010 at 02:43 AM
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