While many people have a general idea that a will has to be filed with the probate court after someone’s passing, they typically don’t understand what happens after that. That’s when the bulk of a personal representative’s responsibilities begin.
A personal representative administers the estate. They must notify all interested parties of the testator’s death, including their potential beneficiaries, heirs and creditors. They must inventory any of the decedent’s assets and safeguard them. It’s their obligation to open up a bank account from which to pay the decedent’s outstanding bills and to preserve the proceeds from the sale of their assets. They must also submit a final tax return and pay any taxes due.
While a personal representative’s failure to carry out their responsibilities can certainly result in probate delays and contested wills can too, there are countless other factors outside their control that may cause a delay in wrapping this final state of affairs up.
Reaching beneficiaries or heirs
Many testators document the names of their heirs or beneficiaries in their will, yet they don’t tend to include their addresses or phone numbers. It can take a personal representative some time to identify the correct contact details necessary to send these interested parties information that they need to sign and return before the probate case can move forward.
Inventorying and appraising assets
Rounding up a decedent’s possessions and finding an appraiser who can assign a value to them can both be challenging. A personal representative must demonstrate to the judge that they took every necessary means to locate a testator’s possessions and procured a fair assessment of its value before liquidating or preparing to divide it among heirs. Otherwise, the court generally won’t close the case.
Filing the final tax return
While it may seem easy enough for the personal representative to prepare and file the final tax return, there’s a lot that has to happen to make that possible such as inventorying and liquidating assets. Taxes may need to be paid and returns filed in the various jurisdictions in which the testator previously resided as well. Processing of these returns must be completed before the case can be closed.
There are steps that testators can take when estate planning to minimize these delays. You may make things easier on your loved ones by implementing these proactive measures.