Colorado residents must make important decisions when having an estate plan prepared. Besides designating who the beneficiaries will be and what they will inherit, everyone who creates an estate plan also should select a personal representative who will see to it that that administration of their estate is complete.
Some people choose a family member to serve as their personal representative, reasoning that they can trust family to carry out their wishes. Often family members are better able to find the assets that need to be passed along and have a better understanding of what the deceased person would want. Although serving as a personal representative can be a lot of work, it is often not practical to name more than one person as co-representatives, because disagreements can arise and because it is cumbersome to have to get more than one signature on legal documents.
A personal representative must be impartial and show no favoritism to anyone who will share in the estate. Personal representatives have a legal duty to use care and prudence and to prioritize the interests of the deceased person's estate as a whole, especially if the personal representative is also an heir.
The Duties of a Personal Representative
As an overview, a personal representative must make sure that the individual's will is filed in court; gather and make an inventory of the assets in the estate; pay off bills, such as hospital bills, that the estate owes; distribute the appropriate shares of the estate to each of the beneficiaries of the will; and go through the legal procedures to close the estate when all the expenses are paid and the assets are distributed. Sometimes the personal representative will have to sell property, like the deceased person's house, and then distribute the proceeds.
It is helpful to have a discussion with the designated personal representative when the will is made to tell the individual that he or she has been chosen for this role, and to tell the personal representative where to find the will and other important papers.
A personal representative is allowed to charge a reasonable fee for services and to use funds from the estate to pay those fees and to reimburse the representative's expenses. In many cases, a personal representative needs legal help in settling the estate and can certainly hire an attorney paid for by the estate.
If you are thinking of establishing an estate plan or have questions on the role of a personal representative in Colorado, contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.