Responsibilities of the Estate Representative
The job of an estate representative isn’t easy. The estate representative may need the approval of the probate judge for each step of the way. This means filling out forms and presenting them in probate court. If, for example, the estate representative wants to sell off some stocks and bonds, or the decedent’s diamond ring, or a painting of his grandmother, there has to be court approval. The State of California has tried to fix this problem by giving the estate representative a fairly free hand, for the most part, in managing the estate.
Under California law, an elaborate procedure has to be followed when a person dies and leaving property behind. First, the will (if there was one) has to be filed, and there are procedures for getting it admitted and approved officially. This part is the probate process. The term “probate,” however, is applied colloquially to everything else that happens between the filing of the will, at the beginning, and closing the estate and distributing the property at the end.
The essence of the process is this: somebody has to be appointed to manage the estate until it is finally distributed. This is the estate representative. The estate representative is either an executor or an administrator. The executor is a person (or corporation) named by the deceased in his will or trust. Where there is no will, the court has to appoint someone to do the job; and this someone is called the administrator. Usually this is a close relative of the deceased.
Job of the Estate Representative
The estate representative takes charge of the property, draws up an inventory of the assets, pays off claims, files any necessary tax returns, sells property that has to be sold, and does whatever else has to be done while the estate is under his care. When these jobs are finished, the estate representative files some sort of accounting with the probate court in charge of the estate, hands the property over to the heirs, and then bows out.
Documents, Debts, Taxes
The estate representative must review the will and trust documents as the case may be. The will or the trust documents will specifically list the responsibilities of the estate representative. The estate representative is also responsible for paying the funeral expenses and the debts of the deceased from the estate’s funds. The estate representative is also responsible for ensuring that the deceased’s income tax returns are filed as required by law. In case the estate is subject to federal estate tax, the estate representative has to ensure that it is paid from the estate’s funds.
Locating the Assets and Beneficiaries
The estate representative is responsible for locating the assets of the deceased. This responsibility is not restricted to the assets listed in the will or trust documents. The representative also has the responsibility of locating the beneficiaries and distributing the estate amongst the beneficiaries. However before distributing the estate amongst the beneficiaries, the debts of the deceased must be paid off.
Seek Legal Help
Seek the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney if you have been appointed the estate representative. The attorney can guide you fulfill your responsibilities as the estate representative.