n Minnesota, the personal representative, sometimes referred to as an executor, is the individual appointed by the court to administer the estate of the decedent. It is the responsibility of the personal representative to give notice of his/her appointment, pay claims brought against and debts of the estate, and distribute the estate assets according to the decedent’s will or the applicable intestacy statutes. A personal representative appointed in either a formal or an informal proceeding has broad authority to administer the estate assets, including, generally, the power manage the assets in the manner the decedent could have done during his or her life.
Pursuant to this definition, the responsibilities usually required of a personal representative include:
- Filing the will and other necessary documents with the Court
- Inventorying the estate assets;
- Paying valid creditors and litigating claims brought by or against the estate;
- Paying taxes and ensuring the filing of necessary tax returns;
- Notifying Social Security and other agencies and governments of the decedent’s death;
- Canceling credit cards, magazine subscriptions, and similar consumer items;
- Maintaining the assets while held in the estate;
- Preparing and filing a final accounting detailing the income and expenses of the estate; and
- Liquidating and distributing assets according to the will or intestacy statutes.
A personal representative is considered a fiduciary. This means that he or she owes a duty to the estate, and ultimately the heirs or devisees of the estate, to maintain a high standard of care when administering the affairs of the estate. The personal representative must ensure that the estate is probated completely, efficiently, and accurately and must manage the estate assets as would a reasonably prudent person when managing his own assets. If the personal representative breaches his or her fiduciary duty, he or she may become subject to personal liability to the heirs or devisees of the estate. Thus, it may be prudent for the personal representative to seek representation by a probate attorney to ensure that he or she fully completes his or her duties throughout the probate process.
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