Advice for Executors and Personal Representatives During Probate

After a close family member or loved one passes away, it’s only natural to feel grief and sadness. In remembrance of a life well lived, someone must also ensure the deceased’s estate is disposed of according to state law and the deceased’s wishes. These people are referred to as executors or personal representatives.

A person in this position oversees the estate’s journey through the probate process. Estate planners may name an executor in their last will and testament, but many people do not form an estate plan before passing away. In those situations, someone close to the deceased must be appointed by the court to handle the estate. A person who is appointed to that position, rather than named through the deceased’s will, is referred to as the personal representative. In this blog, we will use the term personal representative to also describe executors.

The probate process varies among states, but the important components remain the same:

  1. The personal representative goes to court to open the estate.
  2. After receiving the legal power to handle the estate, the personal representative notifies interested parties of the estate holder’s death. Interested parties are any people who might inherit some part of the estate.
  3. The personal representative begins compiling a log of the estate’s assets and determining the value of each asset. 
  4. Creditors must be made aware of the deceased’s passing. The personal representative can sometimes accomplish this by publishing a notice in a local newspaper. All other debts must be satisfied before distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
  5. The personal representative distributes assets according to the deceased’s estate plan or state intestacy laws.

An attorney, accountant, and other professionals often help personal representatives with probate’s technical requirements. Below are some ways you can help the probate process go smoothly if you are called to oversee a loved one’s estate.

Prepare for a Long Process

As long as you are handling an estate with uncomplicated assets and a cooperative team, probate should not take more than about three months. However, that’s not always the case. The probate process has many opportunities for delays, including disputes over the will’s authenticity and missing documents. In especially complicated situations, executors can become wrapped up in estate matters for well over a year. 

Keep in Contact with Beneficiaries and Other Interested Parties

Transparency and honesty always serve the personal representative well during probate. This goes above and beyond the required disclosures; heirs and beneficiaries understandably want to be updated about key developments regarding their loved one’s estate. Keeping a detailed log of the estate’s assets and overall status can be helpful in this endeavor.

Stay True to the Estate

The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to the estate and its assets. Refrain from making risky investments with the deceased’s money or giving heirs their inheritances before paying off all debts. Misusing your position can result in removal from your role as personal representative and other serious consequences.

Ask For Help

If you’ve recently been asked or appointed to be a personal representative, chances are high you’ve never done this before. Don’t feel obligated to figure everything out on your own. The team at White Oak Wills & Trusts has helped countless personal representatives in Oregon and Washington state get through the probate process efficiently and without incident. 

Whether you have just experienced the loss of a loved one or wish to speak with us about your estate plan, we’re here to help. Schedule your consultation through our website here or call us at (503) 928-8664.

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White Oak Wills & Trusts, LLC

At White Oak Wills, we believe that everyone deserves a high-quality estate plan that will meet their unique needs. Our team has years of experience working with families to create personalized plans that take into account their goals and concerns for the future. Whether you need a simple will or a comprehensive plan that includes powers of attorney, guardianships, and trusts, our team can help you develop a plan that aligns with your goals and ensures that your loved ones will be well taken care of.

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