When an individual makes an estate plan, often he or she will choose a trusted person to act as the personal representative of the estate, like a friend or family member. The personal representative of the estate has many important responsibilities and it can seem overwhelming to know where to start to administer the estate.
The first step is for the personal representative to read and understand the estate plan. This includes understanding who the beneficiaries are, what they are entitled to receive and how to notify them. The personal representative has a duty to carry out the wishes of the person who created the estate plan.
Managing the estate’s assets and debts
The personal representative is responsible for taking control of the estate’s assets, valuing them and securing them. The estate’s assets may include bank accounts, furniture, vehicles, jewelry, art and real estate, among others. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to hire an appraiser to provide a value for those items.
The personal representative must also determine if there are any outstanding bills or other expenses that need to be paid. He or she may also be required to file a final tax return in the year of the decedent’s death.
The estate may be closed when all of the assets have been distributed, the debts have been paid and any final tax returns have been filed and accepted. It may be helpful to have all of the beneficiaries sign off that they have received their share of the estate assets.
If an individual needs help with the estate administration process, an experienced attorney can provide guidance and advice.