When a close friend or loved one passes away, it's an honor to be appointed personal representative of the estate. Known in some places as an executor, this position involves managing the will as it goes through the probate process. Often, this job can seem overwhelming no matter the size of the estate. Few positions are so connected to both legal, ethical, and emotional issues as that of a personal representative. One way to simplify the duties of the job is to review pieces of estate documentation. Read on for a quick rundown of common estate paperwork that you will encounter when you set about your tasks.
Burial and Funeral Plans
As the personal representative, your first duty should be to locate any burial or funeral plans. Some people have made arrangements directly with the funeral home, and in some cases, they have even paid the expenses ahead of time.
Life Insurance Plans
Chances are that unless the funeral has already been paid for, the life insurance or burial insurance policies must be located. It is the duty of the personal representative to ensure that funds are made available for the final expenses. In some cases, the funeral home will accept any insurance policies and bill or refund the difference later.
The Last Will and Testament
While there may be no need to read the will immediately, some people use their wills to address their wishes when it comes to the funeral and burial. In the coming days, an appointment should be made with the estate attorney to view the will and make arrangements to file it in probate court. Almost all estates must pass through probate with the exception of very small estates.
When it comes to estate planning, some people are not stopping with just a will. Trusts have become popular ways to deal with estate property after a death. All trusts have their own administrator, and it is not common to appoint one person to be both personal representative and trustee.
A List of Assets
Part of probate is an inventory of the deceased's assets along with the value. As the personal representative, you may be charged with having a professional appraisal performed on the real estate. A list of all vehicles, boats, homes, artwork, jewelry, bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts will make up most inventories. Don't forget to check the contents of any locked safes or the safe deposit box at the bank.
You will be in charge of filling any due tax returns and ensuring that nothing is owed in taxes before probate can be complete.
Deeds and Titles
Since it will fall to you to distribute the estate property to the named beneficiaries (unless there is a trust), you should locate all real estate deeds and car titles.
Speak to the estate or probate attorney to learn more about personal representative duties.