Being Named Personal Representative of an Estate

So you have just been appointed to be the personal representative of an estate? You may be wondering, “What in the world is that, and what do I do?” There’s no need to worry. We will outline what a personal representative is exactly and what duties that they have.

A personal representative, also known as an executor/executrix or administrator in some jurisdictions, manages the affairs of a person’s estate upon their death. There are certain duties that the personal representative must adhere to as apart of the position. Specifically, the personal representative has fiduciary duties that he or she must follow. While these duties do not require absolute perfection in the administration of the estate, it does demand absolute loyalty, honesty, and disclosure. Breaching these duties may result in the personal representative being held personally responsible for any damages or losses from the breach.

Acting as a personal representative requires a duty of loyalty to the estate and its beneficiaries. You are required to act in the interests of the estate. Any type of self-dealing that hurts the estate is prohibited. You also have the duty to act prudently as a personal representative. In other words, you must exercise reasonable care and administer the estate in a diligent manner. You should not place the assets in high-risk investments.

While we have mentioned some of the duties of a personal representative, what are the specific responsibilities that are involved with the position?

  • If there is a Will, the personal representative will send copies of the will to any beneficiaries.
  • If there is not a Will, the personal representative will send copies of what are known as Letters of Administration to all of the heirs. The clerk of the probate court can provide Letters of Administration to an a person appointed personal representative as a method of proving that he or she has the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
  • Complete and sign an Application for Release by TennCare to obtain a release from any potential lien against the assets of the estate. You should do so even if the decedent has not been in a nursing home or if TennCare has not provided any benefits to the decedent.
  • Take possession of the decedent’s property and file an Inventory of the Assets of the estate. The filing may be excused in some circumstances.
  • Pay off any debts and liabilities of the estate. Every creditor is required to file a Claim of Creditor against the estate.
  • Pay the required income and death taxes of the estate.
  • Distribute remaining assets of the estate to the people who are entitled to receive them.
  • File an Accounting by Executor or Administrator with the court. This details the income and expenses of the estate and any distributions made to the beneficiaries. This accounting may be waived in some circumstances by having the beneficiaries sign a Sworn Statement in Lieu of Final Accounting.
  • Obtain the Order Closing the Estate from the probate court.

While we have briefly outlined some of the personal representative’s responsibilities, there are obviously issues that may arise in the administration of the estate. If you have questions or need assistance with an estate administration, be sure to contact the Tennessee estate lawyers. Our team of Nashville based estate attorneys would be happy to help you.