As a Personal Representative of an AZ Estate, What Are My Responsibilities?
The personal representative of an Arizona estate is the individual with responsibility for probate administration of a deceased person’s estate. State law imposes substantial fiduciary duties on a personal representative. This article explains why understanding those duties is important, as well as what the responsibilities entail.
Importance of the Duties of a Personal Representative
Awareness about the nature of a personal representative’s duties is essential in several different contexts, including:
- Selecting an executor to designate in your last will and testament
- Responding to a loved one’s request to serve as the executor of their estate
- Contemplating application for appointment as the personal representative of the estate of a loved one who died intestate (without a will)
- Communicating with the personal representative of a loved one’s estate after their death
In all these situations, you should make certain you understand the responsibilities of a personal representative before you make a decision.
A personal representative has significant legal fiduciary duties under Arizona statutes, which are some of the highest-level duties imposed by law. Failure to perform the duties can result in penalties and potential liability. Due to the complexity and legal nature of the responsibilities, a personal representative often retains an experienced probate and estate administration lawyer to assist in fulfillment of their duties.
Appointment of a Personal Representative
A person becomes the personal representative of an estate solely through appointment by the probate court. Under Arizona law, an executor named in a last will and testament has priority in applying for appointment as the personal representative of an estate. However, an executor has no duties or authority relating to an estate unless they apply for court appointment as the personal representative following the death of the person creating the will.
If an executor cannot or does not wish to serve, or if the deceased person died intestate (without a will), Arizona law provides a priority order in which persons may apply to the court for appointment as the personal representative of an estate. Our previous blog post, Who Is the Personal Representative of Your Loved One’s Arizona Estate? provides a detailed explanation about who can apply and how the court appoints a personal representative.
Duties of the Personal Representative of an Arizona Estate
After applying to the probate court, a personal representative receives legal authorization in Letters of Personal Representative issued by the court. The duties and authority of the appointed individual begin immediately with the appointment.
Arizona requires some estates to go through the probate process. The personal representative has responsibility for determining whether assets need to go through the process. If so, the personal representative has the duty to complete the required process. Even if probate is not required, most estates require administration before they can be settled and closed.
Steps in the Estate Administration Process
Shortly after appointment, the personal representative begins the estate administration process by notifying all heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the estate. The next step is collecting the assets of the estate, securing estate property if necessary, and creating an inventory of estate assets. Sometimes a professional appraisal of estate property is necessary.
After identifying the estate property, the personal representative determines whether the estate includes probate assets that must go through the probate administration process. Assistance from an experienced Arizona probate attorney is indispensable in making this important determination. For assets that must go through probate, very detailed requirements apply.
For every estate, the personal representative’s duties include paying all expenses, costs, claims, and taxes of the estate, in an order of priority established by law. Tax returns for the estate also must be filed.
When all amounts owed by the estate are paid, the personal representative provides a written accounting to the heirs or beneficiaries, who may ask questions or raise objections. After issues are resolved, the personal representative distributes remaining assets in the estate to the beneficiaries according to the provisions of the decedent’s will or to the heirs under the Arizona laws of intestate succession.
The last step in the process is closing the estate, by filing the proper document with the court to confirm distribution of the estate assets. Depending on the process required for the estate, the personal representative may need to file a petition with the court to complete settlement of the estate.
How a Probate Lawyer Helps a Personal Representative
Now that you have a general understanding the significant responsibilities of the personal representative of an estate, you are in a much better position to choose the executor of your own estate, decide whether you want to serve as the personal representative for a loved one’s estate, and know how to communicate with a personal representative if you are an heir or beneficiary.
If you consider serving as the personal representative of an estate, it’s important to remember you can get assistance with fulfilling your duties from a knowledgeable Arizona probate attorney. Your attorney can assist with everything from the initial application to court, collection and inventory of property, determinations about probate and non-probate assets, payment of estate debts and taxes, and distribution of assets. When probate administration is required, your lawyer makes certain that you complete required actions, meet all time deadlines, and fully comply with the detailed requirements of the Arizona probate process.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced East Valley Probate Administration Attorney
The preceding discussion is an overview of the duties of a personal representative, intended only to provide a general explanation of the process. Specific legal requirements apply to each step of the Arizona probate and estate administration process. The nature of an estate determines what specific legal requirements apply.
In our Arizona probate practice at Peterson Law Offices, we assist personal representatives with all aspects of probate and non-probate estate administration. When you lose a loved one, you should not have to worry about legal estate and probate issues while you grieve. We carry as much of the burden as possible, while ensuring that your loved one’s estate is settled in full compliance with Arizona law.
Your first consultation with us is always free of charge. We provide top-quality services at affordable prices to keep our services economical and affordable. We welcome inquiries from clients throughout the East Valley, including Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler. Schedule your free initial consultation by calling 480-878-5998 or using our online contact form.