The short answer to this question is that a personal representative is the person the court appoints to administer the estate of a deceased person. A valid will may control the estate or if none exists, according to the Colorado intestacy laws.
At our law firm, we handle many types of representation related to the role of the personal representative, sometimes called an executor, in Colorado:
- Helping a client decide who is the preferred choice to appoint as a personal representative in a will, whether a relative, family friend or professional
- Advising a personal representative on what his or her fiduciary duties and legal responsibilities are in administering an estate, including duties, document completion and filing, and deadlines
- Analyzing what legal remedies an interested party might have if he or she suspects that a personal representative may have failed to meet his or her responsibilities or breached his or her duties
- Representing a family member, beneficiary, heir or interested party in a lawsuit to remove or otherwise challenge the wrongful actions of a personal representative
- Defending a personal representative against allegations of wrongdoing in a lawsuit
Personal representatives are fiduciaries
A fiduciary is someone with a legal position or assignment of responsibility to protect the financial and legal interests, or personal safety, of another party or persons. We have previously blogged about fiduciaries and their legal duties.
A personal representative must protect the interests of the deceased whose estate the personal representative is administering. The personal representative also has fiduciary duties toward family members, heirs, beneficiaries, involved attorneys and court personnel, creditors and government agencies like tax authorities.
Fiduciary duties typically involve three kinds: loyalty, impartiality and care. In the case of a personal representative, examples of fiduciary duties include:
- Meeting filing deadlines
- Communicating with interested parties and court staff as required
- Carrying out official duties on time, responsibly and with integrity
- Protecting and preserving money and property from waste or theft
- Paying valid debts and taxes on time
- Consulting professionals such as lawyers, accountants or appraisers as needed to administer the estate
- Making decisions according to the terms of the will, the law and the best interests of the beneficiaries
In Part 2 of this post, we will talk more about a personal representative’s duties in administering an estate.