A good checklist can be an invaluable tool as you work to understand your role as a Personal Representative of someone’s will, or work to understand what the person you select as your Personal Representative will be asked to accomplish on your behalf. I want to give a “shout out” to my new client, Joyce, who found this checklist in her files and gave me a copy at a recent meeting with her. I thought it was a great subject for a blog entry – just what will I be expected to do if I am named a personal representative in my loved one’s will? Joyce’s list was published in the newspaper a while back and adapted from an informational brochure the Hennepin County Probate Court used to provide. Now, that court provides information online (see below). Your county would likely have similar information online or available at your county courthouse.
- Find and review the will, if there is one.
- Locate the deceased person’s personal and business records. (You can ask pertinent people for help, like family members, employers, attorneys, accountants, or business partners, for example.)
- If there are surviving children or a spouse, find out if a family allowance is to be paid from the estate assets while you work through the probate process.
- Protect assets such as cars, jewelry, and real estate, and double check that important property insurance stays in place.
INITIAL LEGAL FILINGS
- If there’s an attorney involved, check with him/her, or check with the probate registrar to find out whether administration of the estate is even necessary. If it is, check on whether an informal, unsupervised process or a formal, court-supervised process is required.
- File an application and pay required fee for appropriate process.
- Arrange for newspaper publication of notice of probate commencement, notice to creditors, and mail notice or news clippings to interested parties.
- Arrange to have the post office forward the deceased’s mail to you as personal representative or to next of kin.
- Examine all financial records, stocks and bond holdings, bank accounts, insurance policies, credit cards, loans, savings accounts, debts owed to deceased, digital assets, and any rights to stock options or deferred compensation.
- Inventory and close out any safe deposit boxes.
- If there is a business involved, find out how business interests will be divided.
- The deceased may be due one or all of the following: social security, veteran’s rights or benefits, pensions or profit sharing. Ensure their receipt.
- Prepare an inventory of all the probate assets and their value at the date of death.
- File this inventory with the probate court and mail copies to the spouse and other beneficiaries under the will and to any creditor or interested party who requests it.
- Gather information on non-probate assets to determine the gross estate total. A federal or state tax return may need to be filed.
- Open an estate bank account to collect probate assets and pay estate bills.
PAY DEBTS AND TAXES
- Estimate amounts for administration expenses (filing fees, attorney and accountant fees, publication and mailing costs, executor fees, if any).
- Are there expenses from the last illness? If so, are they covered by Medicare, health insurance, or other hospitalization policies? If so, they all need to pay up.
- Investigate creditors’ claims or bills, and if estate is clearly solvent, pay those not rejected. Creditors have a specific length of time from the date of the creditors’ notice to submit claims. The estate cannot close before that time runs out.
- Prepare all appropriate tax returns.
- Determine whether assets will need to be sold during probate administration to meet debts, taxes, and expenses.
CLOSING THE ESTATE
- Prepare final account showing collections and disbursements.
- If informal, prepare closing affidavit. If formal, file a closing petition, and there will be a court hearing and resulting order.
- File final account with the court and send a copy to all beneficiaries.
- After debts and taxes are properly paid, make distributions to beneficiaries according to the will or state law. (Caution, personal representatives can be held liable for losses if they distribute property incorrectly.)
As you can see, this is not a small job, nor is it a job to be taken lightly. So, as you think about taking on a Personal Representative role or before you assign a Personal Representative, think about who is best equipped to handle the job.
This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com