What are the Responsibilities of the Personal Representative of an Estate?

What is a personal representative?

A personal representative is a person or entity (such as a bank or trust company) responsible for administering a decedent’s estate. In many states a personal representative is called an executor or executrix. Typically, a personal representative is named in a will. If the decedent dies without a will, the Colorado statutes identify the persons with priority for appointment as personal representative. No one can be compelled to accept appointment as a personal representative. A person nominated as personal representative must be appointed by the court before he or she is officially authorized to act on behalf of the estate. Once appointed, the personal representative is said to “step into the shoes of the decedent” with all decedent’s rights and obligations in his property.

What are the Responsibilities of the Personal Representative of an Estate?

Most people know that a personal representative of an estate has certain duties and responsibilities, but until named as a personal representative, they might not understand their exact role. What are some important things you should know about your role as personal representative?

• You can be appointed to share the responsibilities with someone else. Some people appoint two or more personal representatives to oversee an estate, sometimes when they have concerns about a person’s emotional well-being following a death in the family.
• A personal representative is often related to the deceased, but this is not required. Some people choose a friend or their attorney to be the personal representative, knowing the role might be difficult or time consuming for a relative to fulfill.
• You must be at least 18 years old to assume the role of personal representative.

What Are Your Duties as personal representative?

The scope of a personal representative’s work varies greatly depending on the complexity of the estate. However, in all estates a personal representative’s duties include:

1. Identifying, preserving and collecting decedent’s probate assets;
2. Identifying and paying decedent’s lawful creditors, including decedent’s tax liabilities and final expenses;
3. Distributing the decedent’s estate according to decedent’s will if one exists, otherwise according to the applicable laws of intestate succession.

Acting as Executor

Once you have been appointed personal representative of an estate, Colorado law requires that you undertake the following:

1. Send information of your appointment to the devisees and heirs within 30 days of your appointment;
2. Publish notice to creditors in a newspaper with county wide circulation in the county of decedent’s residence for three consecutive weeks;
3. Value and prepare an inventory of decedent’s probate assets within 3 months of your appointment;
4. Prepare an accounting of receipts and expenditures pertaining to decedent’s estate;
5. Prepare and file the proper documents to close the estate.

How Long Will It Take To Administer the Estate?

Naturally, it depends on the facts and circumstances of the estate. If it is a relatively simple estate which is probated informally (as opposed to a formal probate), it cannot be closed earlier than 6 months after being opened.

If the estate was opened formally, it can be closed sooner than six months. However, most estates remain open longer than 6 months. Of course, if litigation is involved, or if the estate is a taxable (as of 2014 having a value in excess of $5,340,000), the estate may be open for several years.

If you have been nominated to act as a personal representative of someone’s estate, our Denver estate planning lawyers can help. Contact Miller and Steiert, P.C. with any questions you have about estate planning and your role as personal representative.

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