Being named the personal representative of a Texas estate comes with many responsibilities. While anyone can make a mistake, serious errors in judgment that negatively affect the assets of the estate could lead to a lawsuit. In fact, a personal representative may be held personally liable for the damages the error caused.

With this in mind, it becomes extremely important to understand exactly what the fiduciary relationship between the representative and the beneficiaries is and what the role entails before accepting the responsibility.

Defining fiduciary

FindLaw explains that a fiduciary’s role generally involves handling someone else’s money and assets on his or her behalf. This often involves making financial decisions, and these must always be based on the best interests of the beneficiaries. The fiduciary relationship between the personal representative and the beneficiaries has to involve trust that all the actions of the representative will be for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Outlining responsibilities

The American Bar Association notes that the first thing a personal representative must do when the testator dies is secure all the assets of the estate. Many financial accounts require special authorization or another process in order to be accessed. A representative may have to gather certain documents, such as a death certificate and Letters Testamentary from the court.

The representative may have to file claims with life insurance companies, and hire professional appraisers to value personal property, real estate and business interests. For as long as these assets belong to the estate, they must be protected through upkeep and insurance.

Taxes and debts must be paid from the estate’s assets before the representative can distribute what is left to the beneficiaries and complete his or her responsibilities.