A Personal Representative (PR) is held to a legal standard of prudence and reasonableness. For example, a PR should not use estate assets to purchase volatile stocks, to pay their personal debt, or distribute estate assets before it is time to do so. While being an executor can mean wearing a number of different hats, the following explains several common duties someone can expect in this role.
Because they are the person responsible for carrying out the instructions within, an executor must locate the most recent originally signed copy of a decedent’s will, read, and understand it.
They should then take the will, a certificate of death, and the other necessary paperwork to the Register of Wills of the county in which the decedent lived in order to open an estate.
Credit card companies, banks, relevant government agencies like the Social Security Administration, and other parties should be notified of the decedent’s death. In a regular estate, one in which the decedent’s assets total more than $50,000.00 (or $100,000.00 if only a spouse is inheriting), you will also have to publish a notice in a local legal newspaper when probate starts. This serves as notification to interested parties.
As a Personal Representative, you will be responsible for the management of Estate assets throughout the probate process.
The first step is determining what assets come into the estate and which pass outside of probate.
Before distribution can occur the PR has several fiduciary obligations to both the estate and the government. Any just debt appropriately claimed against the Estate must be satisfied.
There are also several fees and sometimes taxes associated with Estates that must be paid.
Finally, a document called an Accounting or Statement of Distribution, depending on the size of the Estate, must be filed. These filings show all Estate assets, any gains or losses they have incurred since the owner’s death, and their final disposition. Filing this document provides increased transparency for interested parties wondering what has occurred in an estate and provides an avenue for objections.
Mr. Abraham is an experienced attorney and founding member of the Law Office of Richard K. Abraham. The Sparks, MD office of the firm concentrates its practice in Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate, Medical Assistance (Medicaid), Guardianship, Asset Preservation and Fiduciary Representation.
He is an active member in a number of professional organizations that focus on law, the senior community, and estate planning. He works with clients in Central Maryland, especially in Towson, Hunt Valley, Lutherville/Timonium, Parkville, White Marsh, Bel Air & Northern Baltimore City.
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