When you have been appointed by the court as personal representative of an estate, you become an officer of the court and assume certain duties and obligations. An attorney is best qualified to advise you about these matters. You should clearly understand the following:
Managing the Estate’s Assets
You must manage the estate assets with the care of a prudent person dealing with someone else’s property. This means you should be cautious and you may not make any speculative investments.
Keep estate assets separate
You must keep the money and property in this estate separate from anyone else’s, including your own. When you open a bank account for the estate, the account name must indicate that it is an estate account, and not your personal account. Never deposit estate funds in your personal account or otherwise commingle them with anyone else’s property. Securities in the estate must also be held in a name that shows they are estate property and not your personal property.
Interest-bearing accounts and other investments
Except for checking accounts intended for ordinary administration expenses, estate accounts must earn interest. You may deposit estate funds in insured accounts in financial institutions, but you should consult with your attorney before making other investments.
There are many other restrictions on your authority to deal with estate property. You should not spend any of the estate’s money unless you have received permission from the court or have been advised to do so by your attorney. You may reimburse yourself for official court costs paid by you to the county clerk and for the premium on your bond. If the court has granted you non-intervention powers, you pay fees to yourself and your attorney. Your attorney can advise you how payments should be made. You should consult with your attorney concerning the legal requirements affecting sales, leases, mortgages, and investments of estate property.
Inventory of Estate Property
Locate the estate’s property
You must attempt to locate and take possession of all the decedent’s property to be administered in the estate.
Determine the value of the property
You must arrange to have a professional appraiser determine the value of certain estate property. You will need to obtain the date of death values of financial and brokerage accounts. Your attorney can advise you how to do this.
Prepare an inventory and appraisal
Within three months after your appointment as personal representative, you must prepare an inventory and appraisal of all the assets in the estate.
Notice to Creditors
It is advisable in most circumstances to mail a notice to creditors to each known or reasonably ascertainable creditor of the decedent within four months after your appointment as personal representative.
You should determine if there is appropriate and adequate insurance covering the assets and risks of the estate. Maintain the insurance in force during the entire period of the administration.
You must keep complete and accurate records of each financial transaction affecting the estate. You will have to prepare an account of all money and property you have received, what you have spent, and the date of each transaction. You must describe in detail what you have left after the payment of expenses.
Your account may be reviewed by the court if requested by one of the heirs or beneficiaries. Save your receipts because the court may ask to review them.
Track your time
You should track the amount of time you spend working on the Estate, even if you will not receive any fees.
Consulting an Attorney
If you have an attorney, then you should cooperate with the attorney at all times. You and your attorney are responsible for completing the estate administration as promptly as possible. When in doubt, contact your attorney.
NOTE: This statement of duties and liabilities is a summary and is not a complete statement of the law. Your conduct as a personal representative is governed by the law itself and not by this summary.