13 Common Duties of a Personal Representative

A personal representative is the individual or professional fiduciary in charge of settling the estate of a deceased person (otherwise known as “decedent”) in the court-supervised process known as probate. In a Last Will and Testament, the personal representative is known as the “Executor.” If there is no Last Will and Testament and a person dies intestate, the personal representative is known as the “Administrator.”

The role of a personal representative is to marshal the decedent’s property, notify potential creditors and attempt to resolve any claims, and take care of all required administrative matters such that the property can be distributed according to the wishes of the decedent or the laws of intestate succession.

A personal representative has the following responsibilities in a probate proceeding:

  • Find the original Last Will and Testament, if there is one.
  • Obtain certified copies of the death certificate.
  • Marshal estate assets by taking possession of the property and safeguarding it until everything is distributed and any debts are paid.
  • If possible, collect any assets and death benefits, such as bank account funds, life insurance proceeds, annuity benefits, Social Security death and survivor benefits, veteran’s benefits, etc.
  • Determine the heirs and beneficiaries may be.
  • Check out any safe-deposit boxes for important papers or other valuables.
  • Collect the decedent’s mail, to make sure nothing important is missed.
  • Cancel credit cards and subscriptions.
  • Manage digital assets and accounts.
  • Notify the Franchise Tax Board of the decedent’s death.
  • Notify the Social Security Administration if the decedent was receiving monthly social security benefits.
  • Prepare the decedent’s final income tax returns.
  • Report to the probate court on the administration of the estate, including a request for final distribution of assets and rendering an account.
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Giuliana V. Brockway

As Principal of Brockway Law in Santa Rosa, California, my practice includes estate planning, wills and trusts, trust and estate litigation, trust and estate administration and probate matters.