Perhaps your favorite aunt wanted you to serve as her personal representative and you were happy to agree.
Aunt Lucy died unexpectedly, thrusting you into the role you thought was years away. You feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, but professional guidance will help you succeed.
Accomplishing first tasks
As personal representative for your aunt, you will make her funeral and burial arrangements and pay out of the estate funds. You will need copies of the death certificate to provide to banks, investment firms, the Social Security Administration and other entities to inform them of your aunt’s death. You must also locate the will, which you must file with the probate court. If your aunt had a living trust, the trust assets can bypass probate. This is because the trust, rather than the decedent, is the owner of the property the trust contains.
If your aunt compiled a list of assets and told you where to find them, you have a head start on settling the estate. If not, you might find the paperwork in a safe deposit box or at her attorney’s office. Once you locate the assets, your main job will be to protect them until it is time for distribution to the beneficiaries.
Your responsibilities as personal representative will extend to paying the decedent’s bills and preparing and filing her final tax returns. First, you must make sure that the estate’s assets are sufficient to cover these payments. Otherwise, the probate judge will prioritize creditors.
Asking for help
You will have many questions as you begin your work as personal representative. Do not hesitate to ask for help from an accountant, appraiser or other professional. Your attorney can assist you from the beginning and help you avoid making any legal missteps.