A close friend has asked you to be the personal representative of their will. It is an honor to be asked but it a responsibility that you really can handle. The personal representative is directly responsible for the settlement of the estate, regardless of whether they were appointed by the decedents’ will or appointed by the court. Duties of the personal representative include:
- Take possession of and protect the real and personal property, excepting the homestead and real estate specifically given by the will.
- Keep real estate and personal property properly insured.
- Receive the rents and payments due and collect interest, dividends, and other income.
- Make proper demand for and collect all the debts, claims, and notes due.
- Assist in determining the names, ages, residences and degree of relationship of all possible heirs.
- Litigate or settle any pending lawsuits in which the deceased had an interest.
- Keep the property of the estate in good repair.
- Keep surplus funds invested.
- Obey and perform all the orders of the court.
- Determine and pay federal and state estate taxes and federal and state income taxes.
- Pay the valid claims of creditors and, if necessary, sell the estate property to do so.
- Distribute the remaining assets to the proper heirs.
You should have the assistance of a lawyer if you act as a personal representative of the estate. Not everyone will have an estate that requires all of these duties. This is an illustration of the fact that if a person has a complicated estate that acting as personal representative can be time consuming and you will be held responsible for losses to the estate for failure to perform your duties. Personal Representation is not a duty to take lightly. Your first question to your friend should be how complicated is the estate before you say yes.