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Personal Representative/Executor

What Does A Personal Representative Do?

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The legal duties of a Personal Representative vary from state to state. In general, a Personal Representative will:

  • Locate your Will and the people who witnessed it. It may not be necessary to locate the witnesses if they executed an affidavit about the execution of your Will. To learn more, see How To Make Your Will Challenge Proof.
  • Deliver the Will to the courthouse and petition the court for formal appointment as Personal Representative.
  • Decide whether or not probate court proceedings are needed. If your estate is worth less than a certain amount (which varies by state), probate may not be required.
  • Place ads in local newspapers to notify creditors of your death if required by law or the court. Creditors then have a set period of time in which to file a claim against your estate. The average period of time is six months.
  • Locate your beneficiaries, let them know a Will has been filed, and that they are named as beneficiaries in the Will.
  • Communicate with the people who would receive your estate if you did not have a Will so they will be given a chance to contest the validity of the document filed as your Will.
  • Pay your final expenses, such as funeral and burial expenses.
  • Pay your debts and taxes. Taxes include a final income tax return and, if necessary, an estate tax return.
  • Find and manage your assets during the probate process. If you have a business, this can include running the business.
  • Handle day-to-day details, such as terminating your credit cards and notifying banks, the post office, and the Social Security office of your death.
  • Distribute assets to beneficiaries according to your Will or, if you don't have a Will, according to the intestacy laws in your state (the laws that describe what happens to assets if a person dies without a valid Will).

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