The Personal Representative’s Responsibilities
The personal representative (either the executor or administrator) has many fiduciary duties. In general, this person must do their best to carry out the wishes of the decedent.
More specifically, they will need to:
- Locate and appraise funds and assets in the estate
- Pay off debts and taxes using the estate’s funds or proceeds from sales
- Complete other financial tasks (e.g. file the final tax return, close accounts, etc.)
- Distribute funds and assets to beneficiaries according to the decedent’s wishes
The personal representative must act not in their own interests but in a way that carries out the decedent’s final wishes and prioritizes the interests of the beneficiaries or heirs.
To be a personal representative, you must be 18 or older, and you must be of sound mind. You do not have to live in the same state as the decedent.
Can Probate Be Avoided?
Probate costs money. It can also take many months to complete, and the court process publicizes families’ private affairs. For these reasons, many people want to know how they might avoid probate entirely.
Some types of property are considered “non-probate assets,” meaning they can automatically skip probate. Jointly owned property, for example, will generally go to the surviving owner without probate. The same goes for funds with designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance proceeds, payable-on-death accounts, and other retirement funds.
That said, an asset does not need to be a non-probate asset in order to skip probate. Some estate owners help their beneficiaries avoid probate entirely by placing all their assets into a trust. Not every type of trust will accomplish this goal, which is why Sallen Law is here to help you understand your options and implement the most effective legal strategy for your estate and loved ones.
Although many try to avoid probate at all costs, it does not need to be the painful or complex process that many people believe it to be. With professional support, you can put the documents in place to ensure the probate process is both efficient and cost-effective.
Advocating for Heirs, Beneficiaries, & Personal Representatives
If you have been named the administrator or executor of an estate, we are here to help you fulfill your fiduciary duties. Many people will be depending on you to complete complex legal and financial tasks, and the consequences of breaching your duties may be severe. Our probate lawyer in Merion Station can walk you through the process from beginning to end, providing the knowledgeable counsel and compassionate support you deserve.
If you are an heir or beneficiary, we can help you understand and preserve your rights, contest the will or trust, and complete any other probate-related tasks. In some cases, personal representatives breach their fiduciary duties by acting in their own interests or mishandling the decedent’s estate. If you believe this has occurred, we can help you hold the representative accountable for their actions or failures. In short, we are here to fight for your wellbeing so you can take all the time you need to grieve and heal.
Fiduciary Succession and Family Harmony
Having handled hundreds of cases, our attorney has helped clients navigate complex family dynamics and disputes. Probate and estate administration can potentially add a great deal of stress to an already challenging ordeal. As a mother, Attorney Sallen understands the fear that children will lose the relationships they have with each other because of probate-related arguments and lawsuits. However, she firmly believes in the power of estate planning to prevent these disputes, and she skillfully guides her clients through processes like probate and estate administration in a way that preserves familial relationships and secures the fairest possible resolutions for everyone involved.