A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) frequently serves as the foundation of a first-time planner’s estate plan. When you create your Will, you must nominate a Personal Representative (often referred to as an Executor) to oversee the administration of your estate. Probate is the legal process through which this administration occurs. The Personal Representative must open a probate with the proper court to make sure the decedent’s assets are properly identified and transferred, in accordance with the decedent’s Will, and state law. Thus, before nominating a Personal Representative, it is important to understand what responsibilities go with the job. The duties and responsibilities of a Personal Representative include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Secure important documents. The decedent’s Will must be located and certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate ordered. Any additional estate planning documents should also be located and secured.
- Identify and secure assets. As soon after the decedent’s death as possible, the Personal Representative should identify and secure estate assets to ensure the entire estate is accounted for.
- Initiate probate. Probate usually occurs in the county wherein the decedent was a resident at the time of his/her death. To open the probate, the Personal Representative must obtain a certified copy of the death certificate, and a signed, original copy of the decedent’s Will. Depending on the county and state, a copy of the Will may suffice. The Personal Representative then must petition the appropriate court to open probate and to receive his/her official appointment as Personal Representative.
- Categorize and value assets. The Personal Representative must obtain a date of death value for all estate assets, and decide if they are probate or non-probate assets, as some assets can bypass the probate process entirely.
- Notify creditors and review claims. The Personal Representative must notify creditors of the decedent’s passing. Known creditors may be notified individually. Unknown creditors are notified via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors then have a statutory amount of time to file a claim against the estate. The Personal Representative must review all claims and approve or deny them.
- Pay taxes. The Personal Representative must determine if any state or federal gift and estate taxes are due from the estate. All necessary tax returns must be filed and any tax debt owed must be paid out of estate assets.
- Distribute assets. Finally, the Personal Representative must prepare any necessary legal documents to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries.
Contact a Phoenix Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about appointing an Executor, contact an experienced Phoenix estate planning lawyer at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.