When you’re putting together an estate plan, one detail you’ll have to consider is who will be responsible for executing your wishes after your death. This person has a number of responsibilities that they must handle and decisions to make, even if they have professional assistance.
Who Can be a Personal Representative
Many people choose their spouse as their personal representative and another person who will serve as a backup. It’s also generally a good idea to notify the person who will serve as your executor and confirm they’re willing to serve. Utah law allows you to appoint anyone who is over the age of 21 to fill the role. If you have not completed an estate plan, or the person you name is unable or unwilling to serve as the personal representative, then the law provides a variety of other individuals who can be named to the role. These people include a spouse, heir, or someone receiving a gift under the will. If no one steps forward to fill the role, then after 45 days the court can appoint a creditor to the role.
What Does the Personal Representative Do?
Once the personal representative has been notified of the testator’s death, then their first job is to locate the will and file it with the probate court. They can retain a law firm to help with this process and to ensure they comply with the requirements of the probate court, especially if the estate is large or complex. The probate court approves the appointment of the executor and they can then proceed to manage the estate. This involves taking an inventory of all the assets and debts of the estate. The executor will also begin notifying heirs and creditors. Another important step is to safeguard the estate until the assets can be distributed to the heirs.
Once a clear picture of the estate is gathered, the first task of the personal representative is paying off all the outstanding debts of the estate. This includes the funeral expenses, filing the final tax return and paying taxes, and handling any other outstanding debt. Here again an experienced estate attorney can guide the personal representative as some debts take precedence over others and many can be negotiated.
Once outstanding debts and taxes are paid, then the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets as indicated in the estate plan. If someone dies without a will or estate plan, then Utah laws have a system to guide the personal representative in distributing the assets. One of the reasons people write wills is to guide the distribution of their assets in a different way than they would go under intestate succession. Handling an estate can be a complicated task, particularly for larger, complex estates that feature significant assets, trusts, or difficult families. The paperwork for the probate court alone can be tedious. Having the help of an experienced estate attorney like the team from Dunn Law Firm can help significantly by understanding the probate court, negotiating with creditors, and assisting the personal representative throughout the process. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.