What is a Personal Representative?

A personal representative (“PR“), also known as an executor or administrator, is in charge of handling the decedent’s estate. If someone has a will, they most likely named who would they wanted to act as their PR/executor/administrator. Furthermore, a lot of wills also spell out a secondary choice for personal representative if the first pick is unable or unwilling to act. If the decedent didn’t have a will, one of the decedent’s heirs or an interested party will have to petition the court to be appointed. It’s important to keep in mind that just because the decedent named someone as the PR/executor/administrator in their will doesn’t mean there won’t be a need to go through the probate court. To learn more, see our previous post titled: What is Probate?

What’s does the PR/Executor/Administrator do?

First, the PR must determine who the interested parties are so that they can be served notice. Next, the PR must gather information about the decedent’s assets. On top of that, the PR should also gather information about all of the decedent’s debts. This information will be used to supply the court with an inventory. After this, there is typically a hearing to appoint the PR. At this time, a judicial order and letters are issued. The personal representative is responsible for paying the creditors of the decedent. However, the PR must also ensure the decedent’s distributions are followed according to the will. Meet with a probate attorney to learn if all bills need to be paid. The probate process varies but typically takes about a year.

How do I prove that I’m the PR/Executor/Administrator?

A court appointed personal representative receives Letters Testamentary (if the decedent had a will) or Letters of General Administration (if the decedent didn’t have a will). Typically creditors require “certified” Letters which come from the court with a stamp and embossed seal.

Judges or Registrars issue Letters. The process involves filing a petition, serving notices, possibly attending a hearing, and filing an acceptance and oath. Sit down with a probate attorney to learn more about doing probate correctly.