When a loved one dies, friends and family are forced to handle a lot. Of course, there is the difficult personal loss which requires a journey of healing. But there are also many financial and practical details that must be handled, which, at the time of the loss, can seem trivial.
If your loved one left behind a will, it most likely appoints a person or a business or firm to act as the estate’s executor. If there was no will, or if the named executor is incapable or unwilling to serve, the court will appoint an administrator.
Whichever situation, the administrator or executor acts as a personal representative of the estate and holds a position of trust and confidence. They are held to a very high degree of care, diligence, personal and fiduciary obligation involved in the administration of an estate. As a fiduciary, a personal representative is obligated to act as a prudent person in the care and management of the estate and to act in a manner consistent with the will and not in conflict with any applicable estate administration laws or the laws of intestacy in Virginia.
A personal representative has the responsibility of managing the decedent’s estate in numer ous ways including:
- receiving all assets of the estate;
- determining and paying all lawful debts of the estate;
- making distribution to the proper beneficiaries under the will or, if no will, under the intestacy statute; and then
- reporting timely to the Commissioner of Accounts on the actions taken by the fiduciary in handling the estate.
To carry out these obligations and tasks, the personal representative should take charge of and gain possession of all assets of the estate where necessary to pay taxes, debts and claims against the estate and the ultimate distribution of the assets.
Generally, the personal representative must file a complete inventory of the estate within four months of qualification with the Commissioner of Accounts. The Commissioner of Accounts is a local professional appointed by the circuit court to oversee and ensure that the estate is handled properly. Unless waived, every personal representative must provide a complete accounting to the Commissioner of Accounts for his or her financial actions in the administration of the estate. Such accounting lists all the assets of the estate, distributions, and assets on hand. There are specific forms, instructions, and requirements for these accounting. Generally, a complete accounting of all financial transactions must be filed on 12-month accounting intervals until the final accounting can be made.
Estates vary widely in size and complexity. Some estate administrations are simple and straightforward and others are rather complicated. Nevertheless, a clear understanding of the law and responsibilities under probate law is important in successfully handling the administration of an estate and minimizing liability for the personal representative.
Fulfilling these responsibilities can be rather time consuming and burdensome for the personal representative. They still lead busy lives and have family and professional demands. Recognizing that this role requires a fair amount of time and energy, compensation for administering an estate is allowed and is approved by the Commissioner of Accounts.
If you or someone you know is a personal representative for an estate, contact the estate administration attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. We have extensive experience in administering estates of all sizes and complexity. We can provide advice and guidance to ensure the duties are carried out properly and efficiently. Contact MartinWren P.C.’s Virginia estate attorneys at (434) 817-3100. We will listen to your concerns, help you gather the facts, and make certain that the personal representative administers the estate in a way that honors the deceased loved one.