In July of this year, reports emerged analyzing the last will and testament of James Gandolfini, the star of the popular Sopranos who passed away while on vacation in Italy just a month earlier. The publication of his will fueled a public debate over the wisdom of the will’s drafting as far as taxes are concerned, with commentators arguing that the will could result in higher estate taxes being paid by the heirs than necessary. As co-executors, Mr. Gandolfini’s wife, sister and lawyer are responsible for resolving any issues arising in the course of carrying out the deceased’s testamentary wishes.
An executor is the title given to your personal representative named in your will to carry out its terms. An executor’s role and responsibilities are the same as any personal representative appointed by the court. The personal representative’s position is an important and delicate one, underlining the need to choose this person wisely.
How should I choose my personal representative?
The personal representative you select has the task of managing your assets and distributing your estate to your heirs. It is best to choose a trustworthy and organized person suited to this responsible role and a back-up candidate in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to take on these duties when the time comes. If no personal representative is named in your will, or if the person named has passed away, the Minnesota courts appoint one for you.
The personal representative’s duties
Minnesota probate law permits personal representatives to take on their duties once they have filed an oath of office with the probate court. Their key responsibilities involve administering the decedent’s estate quickly and efficiently. Specific tasks include:
- Filing the deceased’s will and an inventory of assets with the court
- Gathering, protecting and insuring the assets in the inventory, from personal property to stock certificates to real estate
- Paying outstanding debts to valid creditors from the estate funds
- Canceling credit cards and subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and other products
- Completing legal and tax formalities
- Locating beneficiaries and distributing property in line with the terms of the will
- Paying estate administration costs until the completion of the process
For guidance in understanding your personal representative’s role and advice on how to choose the best candidate, or for any other help preparing your will, contact the attorneys at Hess & Jendro Law Office, P.A..