The Legal Duties of a Personal Representative (Transcript)
D. "Rep" DeLoach III, Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
The legal duties of the personal representative are many, most importantly, the personal representative, also known as the executor, but the personal representative is a fiduciary, and a fiduciary has to act in a very high level to make sure they act properly, and acting properly means making sure that they act impartially where they don't favor one beneficiary over another. They must act truthfully, and acting truthfully means they disclose all assets, all bills. The personal representative must act as that of a reasonably prudent person. What would a reasonably prudent person do doing a situation? You could think about that where someone is selling a piece of property. How would a reasonably prudent person sell a piece of property? Would they get an appraisal for the property? Would they hire a realtor to sell the property? There's not a lot of specific rules, but, ultimately, you have to act as how a reasonably prudent person would in any given situation. That's part of the rules of being a fiduciary.
Other rules the personal representative means they have to give an accounting to all the beneficiaries. So the inventory of the assets, they have to provide an exact date of death for the decedent's assets, but they also have to give it an inventory for the assets, as well. That's typically done within 60 days of being appointed by the court. Once the personal representative is appointed by the court, then they have to provide a written inventory to the attorney, and the attorney submits that to the court, and that's how the assets are valued for tax purposes, but it's how assets are spent and then accounted for by beneficiaries at the end.
Finally, the personal representative must act quickly and diligently in wrapping up the decedent's affairs, meaning they need to go about and inventorying the assets, gathering assets, paying bills, doing all the specific things that need to be done, and do this in a fairly quick manner.
We've gotten involved in some estates where the personal representative was really not on the ball, and what happens is everyone gets upset, the court gets upset, beneficiaries get upset, and the personal representative, they're not going about and doing things quickly and doing things the right way, then they could be removed from the court because they're not acting in the right way. Basically, they're not acting in the terms of a fiduciary, and the fiduciary, again, must act as a way, as a reasonably prudent person would in that given circumstance. So in summary, the personal representative has a lot of duties, but a good attorney will help advise them as they're on their way and making sure they make all the right decisions and the affairs are wrapped up appropriately.