A loved one or close friend has just died. If the person had foresight to create an estate plan, a personal representative is probably named in the will. If no will exists, it may be known that the deceased had someone in mind to serve in this capacity and so the court makes the appointment. Maybe it’s you.
What happens next? Do you have to take the job? What does it entail? Could I wind up being liable in some way for debts owed by the deceased? What if things get really complicated and it takes a lot of time, can you be paid? These are all common questions and the best way to get answers is to consult an experienced Arkansas probate lawyer.
The Arkansas State Code attempts to make clear what it means to be a personal representative. Section 28 says:
“Personal representative” means an executor, administrator, or special administrator of a decedent’s estate, a person legally authorized to perform substantially the same functions, or a successor to any of them.
Much of that sentence might be clear, but the bit at the end may have you scratching your head. So what are the implications of being a personal representative?
The first thing to be aware of is that, as personal representative, you can be held personally liable for the proper maintenance of the dead person’s proceeds and property.
As a way of assuring that the person fulfills duties and obligations, Arkansas requires the posting of a bond. It’s usually set based on a percent of the estate’s estimated total value. A will might waive the bond requirement, but a court can override the waiver if it deems it appropriate. The bond cost typically is picked up by the estate.
As far as duties go, the representative has a responsibility to inventory all assets and value them within 60 days of being named. Certain steps must be taken to ensure that claimed debts are legitimate and counted. The representative must also file an accounting with the court when assets are ready to be disbursed and the probate process is ready to be closed. That accounting can include a record of all time spent on representative duties for compensation purposes.
Being named representative is a vote of confidence and trust, but you can see why an attorney’s aid can be helpful in meeting the demands.