Personal Representative – Role and Duties

The probate process can be cumbersome and demanding. Accordingly, an estate planning custom involves a testator naming a personal representative, or co-personal representatives, to responsibly administer his estate at death. The role is commonly held by a close family member or friend. For complex estates it may be best to appoint an attorney or institution, such as a trustee bank, to act as personal representative. Whoever is named must represent the estate in good faith or risk being replaced. In the event a decedent failed to name a personal representative (e.g. intestacy situations), the court will appoint one of behalf of the estate.

Personal representatives have many important responsibilities which are closely stipulated by Arizona probate law. Additionally, their actions are closely monitored by the designated probate judge. The following list outlines the typical steps a personal representative must take to ensure an estate is completely and properly handled:

Prior to probate:
1. Initiate a probate petition with the court; prove the will’s validity
2. Obtain letters of administration (authorizing action on estate’s behalf)
3. Post bond with court (or seek waiver), if necessary
4. Provide notice to heirs, devisees, and creditors
5. Take possession of estate assets

Once probate officially opens:
6. Create and complete asset inventory for appraisal (complete within 90 days)
7. Pay taxes, including federal estate tax
8. Set aside community property from devisees
9. Pay of any outstanding, legitimate creditors
10. Distribute remaining estate property (either under Wills terms or intestacy laws)

For his troubles, the personal representative is entitled to “reasonable” compensation. The payment is usually made accordingly to an hourly basis so meticulous note taking and time logs are strongly encouraged.

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