What does the Personal Representative do?

The Personal Representative must:

  • decide if there are any probate assets;
  • locate the decedent’s assets and manage them during the probate process. This could take up to a year or longer and may involve deciding whether to sell real estate or securities owned by the decedent;
  • receive payments due to the estate, including interest, dividends, and other income (e.g., unpaid salary, vacation pay, and other company benefits)
  • set up an estate checking account to hold money that is owed to the decedent — for example, paychecks or stock dividends;
  • figure out who is going to get what and how much under the Will. If there is no Will, the administrator will have to look at state law (Probate code Sections 6400 – 6414, called “intestate succession” statutes) to find out who the decedent’s heirs are and determine each heir’s share of the estate;
  • value or appraise the estate’s assets;
  • give official legal notice to creditors and potential creditors of the probate proceeding and the deadlines for creditors to file claims, according to state law;
  • investigate the validity of all claims against the estate;
  • pay funeral bills, outstanding debts, and valid claims;
  • use estate funds to pay continuing expenses — for example, mortgage payments, utility bills and homeowner’s insurance premiums;
  • handle day-to-day details, such as disconnecting utilities, ending leases and credit cards, and notifying banks and government agencies — such as Social Security, the post office;
  • file tax returns and pay income and estate taxes – including a final state and federal income tax return covering the period from the beginning of the tax year to the date of death;
  • after getting the court’s permission, distribute the decedent’s property to the people or organizations named in the Will, or to the decedent’s heirs if there is no Will; and
  • file receipts for distribution and wrap up any closing details for the estate.

Other Frequently Asked Questions


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