Know Your Personal Representation Duties Using These Documents

If you have been named personal representative of an estate, your duties are serious and important enough to prepare for them ahead of time. A convenient way to accomplish that might be to consider the below list of common estate documents for a guide.

Final Plan Documents

Part of the duties of a personal representative is to ensure that any burial or funeral plans are carried out. Whether you are a loved one or not, you must abide by the wishes of the deceased in all cases. Many times, however, the arrangements are up to the family. If the deceased has already made final arrangements and paid for them, locate the plan information as soon as possible after the death. If no financial arrangements have been made, find out about any life insurance policies that may be used for that purpose.

Locate the Will

Some personal representatives only find out about their appointment once the will is located and read. If the will cannot be found, seek out the family probate or estate planning attorney for a copy. If the estate is a small one (under a certain amount), a shorter, simpler probate process may be possible. 

There May Be a Trust

Trusts have become popular accompaniments to the will. With a trust, a person will be named to be the trustee. That fulfills the same basic function as a personal representative does with a will. You may not be named trustee or you might be named both trustee and personal representative. You will need to work closely with a lawyer to ensure that the trust provisions are given a higher priority than the will. Anything mentioned in the trust will not go through probate.

Make an Inventory

A written record of all estate property is one of the first requests made from the probate court so be prepared. You don't have to list every pot and pan but you should list all major items along with vehicles, investment accounts, real estate, jewelry, bonds, stocks, and more. In many cases, professional appraisals will be needed to assign value to the real estate and other valuable objects.

As the Bills Come In

Not all bills need to be paid now or ever (in some cases). Rather than pay the bills as they arrive, set them aside and speak with the lawyer for guidance. You may need to pay certain important bills but credit card bills, medical debts, and other forms of debt may not ever need to be paid. You may also be required to file a final income tax return on behalf of the deceased. Consult with the attorney about paying any taxes owed.

Contact a will and trust attorney for more information.