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What are the responsibilities of an estate’s personal representative?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Estate Administration

Some people agree to be the personal representative of an estate when a loved one asks them to assume that responsibility. Other people end up appointed to the role of personal representative by the Pennsylvania probate courts.

However someone acquires the authority to manage estate administration, they will have certain legal obligations. A failure to fulfill those responsibilities could lead to removal from their role or even personal financial responsibility. Those who understand their responsibilities as a representative will have an easier time fulfilling them.

Communicating with the probate court

One of the first steps someone will have to take during estate administration is to notify the courts of the passing and to submit paperwork to begin the probate process. A personal representative will need to put together an inventory of assets and financial obligations and will need to locate testamentary paperwork to submit to the courts. They will then need to communicate with the courts as necessary given the size of the estate and the amount of probate court oversight required during its administration.

Maintaining and converting assets

Often, the personal representative of an estate will have to locate and secure the property of the decedent. They may need to change the locks at a home, put valuables into a safety deposit box or otherwise assume control over an individual’s most valuable property. They will then have an obligation to maintain those resources during the estate administration process. They may have to do work around a home to keep it safe and habitable. They may need to make decisions about invested resources. They may even need to convert assets from one form to another, often by conducting an estate sale as instructed by the testator.

Fulfilling financial obligations

One of the biggest liabilities for the representative of an estate is that they could be responsible for taxes and debts that they don’t pay as they should. They will have an obligation to notify creditors and then handle claims made in probate court. Sometimes, they may need to liquidate all of the estate’s resources to pay off existing debts and will have very little to distribute to beneficiaries.

Distributing assets according to the will, if applicable

Testators usually provide clear instructions about who should inherit which assets from their estates. The representative of the estate has a responsibility to comply both with the testator’s instructions and Pennsylvania state law when distributing the remaining assets in the estate after fulfilling someone’s financial responsibilities.

Oftentimes, people who have never gone through probate before require guidance to manage the process without mistakes. Knowing the general responsibilities one must fulfill as a representative can make it easier for people to avoid potentially costly errors during estate administration.