A probate personal representative is in charge of settling the estate of a person who is deceased. Probate involves many facets and varies depending on the decedent’s state of residence, type of inheritance property, and estate planning strategies put into place prior to death.
The probate personal representative is usually designated within the last will and testament. When individuals die without leaving a Will (intestate), the estate is placed into probate and an estate administrator is appointed through the court. Some states require probate representatives to obtain court confirmation, while others allow them to settle the estate without court interference.
Most people require the services of a probate attorney to assist with estate management duties. This is particularly true when managing intestate estates, as additional steps are required when decedents do not leave directives regarding distribution of inheritance property. Intestate estates must be settled according to state probate laws.
A few considerations should be made when designating a probate executor within the last Will. The person should be good with finances and be able to work under pressure. It is best to discuss the decision with the intended estate administrator to ensure they are willing to take on duties. Estate executors must be at least 18 years of age and never convicted of a felony.
Estate planners recommend appointing two personal probate representatives. If the primary executor is unable to fulfill estate management duties, the second executor can step into the role. This preventative measure ensures estate settlement can occur without delay.
When family dysfunction is prevalent it is usually best to appoint a neutral third party, such as a lawyer or estate planner, to manage the estate. Doing so can reduce or eliminate the potential for heirs to contest the Will.
Common duties of probate representatives include: obtaining property appraisals for valuable items such as real estate, automobiles, and personal belongings such as jewelry or antiques; pay outstanding debts; and distribute assets to designated beneficiaries upon estate settlement.
Probate executors receive compensation for estate management duties. Fees are determined based on state probate laws. Some states calculate fees at an hourly wage, while others allow estate administrators to charge a flat fee or percentage of the estate value.
Estate executors can give up compensation for their services if desired. However, probate can extend for months or years and require innumerable hours of work. It is not uncommon for probate representatives to spend over 100 hours in estate settlement procedures.
Although it can be uncomfortable to request compensation to manage a loved one’s estate, the estate administrator provides an invaluable service that can be emotionally difficult and time consuming to deal with.
One way to avoid probate is to transfer inheritance property into a trust. When property is protected within a trust the Will does not have to be submitted to the court and remains private. Probated Wills are a matter of public record and can be viewed by anyone who wants to see it. Trusts are managed by a Trustee and inheritance can be distributed quickly.
Trusts are typically reserved for estates valued over $100,000. However, individuals with small estates can engage in estate planning probate strategies to keep certain assets out of probate. Property can be protected by assigning beneficiaries to bank accounts, retirement funds, financial portfolios, and titled property including real estate and motor vehicles.
Executing a last Will grants individuals the opportunity to bequeath personal belongings to whomever they choose. Dying intestate requires inheritance to be distributed according to state probate laws. Those who do not engage in estate planning will leave everything in the hands of the court.