The individual named as a personal representative plays a crucial role in successfully administering an estate. Often, however, the personal representative performs her or his important duties while grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition, the person named as personal representative may never have been in this position before and may feel overwhelmed.
Your loved one has likely named a personal representative in a will. Otherwise, the probate judge has authority to appoint a personal representative - also referred to as an executor or administrator.
As a personal representative, your tasks include:
- Filing your loved one's will and other documents with the court
- Creating an inventory of assets and their values
- Protecting assets during the probate process
- Preparing a list of your loved one's heirs
- Assessing and either allowing or disallowing creditors' claims
- Satisfying valid debts
- Paying federal and Minnesota taxes
- Notifying the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other relevant agencies of your loved one's death
- Canceling credit cards and bank accounts
- Distributing property to beneficiaries in accordance with your loved ones will
Minnesota Statutes Chapter 524 Uniform Probate Code states that personal representatives are fiduciaries. The law describes the fiduciary relationship to mean that you are expected to "observe the standards of care in dealing with the estate assets that would be observed by a prudent person dealing with the property of another." If you were chosen based on your special skills or expertise, rather than for your familial relationship, you have a duty to apply those skills. Your fiduciary relationship requires you to handle estate matters efficiently and expeditiously in a manner that is in the best interests of the estate.
You are not personally liable for claims against the estate. As long as you comply with the laws and uphold your fiduciary duty, you cannot later be held legally responsible for problems that arise during its administration.
A qualified Minnesota probate attorney can guide you in successfully fulfilling your role as a personal representative.