If you've been honored with a personal representative appointment, you might be wondering what to expect. Personal representatives (also called executors) are often friends or loved ones of the deceased and work alongside the estate or probate lawyer to administer the estate. Some of the duties of the personal representative are routine, but some may surprise you. Read on to find out more.

  1. You Won't Be Working Alone – Non-lawyers are not expected to understand the laws guiding probate matters. These laws are often archaic and vary by state. Rather, you will be working hand-in-hand with an attorney during probate, which may last up to six or more months. Also, more than one personal representative can be appointed, so you might be working with a partner.
  2. You Can Turn It Down – Dealing with the tasks required is not for everyone. If you don't feel up to the task, you are not obligated to accept the job. If the will's author is living, kindly let them know that you cannot perform the duties so that they can appoint another representative. If you are dealing with a deceased author, let the probate or estate lawyer know and they will take care of filing the appropriate papers with the probate court.
  3. You May (Or May Not) Get Paid – Depending on the laws of your state, you may be paid for your work. In most cases, the fee paid is a percentage of the total value of the estate. Speak to your probate or estate lawyer to find out how things work in your state.
  4. You Can Be Subject to Criminal Charges – Unfortunately, some personal representatives take advantage of their position and try to profit from the deceased's estate. While you may be paid for your time, you may be reimbursed for out-of-pocket spending, and you may accept an inheritance, you cannot just take assets from the estate without it being directed by probate.
  5. Your Duties Start Right Away, But Not Legally – Technically, personal representatives have to be approved by the probate court before they are empowered. However, many personal representatives step in and take charge of primary initial duties like locating the will and helping with burial arrangements.
  6. You Should Pay Estate Bills, But Not All of Them – This is where working closely with the lawyer is important. The legal concept of the will came about as a way to deal with people owed money by the deceased. Debts, however, have to be paid using a priority system. For example, federal taxes are high on the list but credit cards may never get paid at all.

To find out more about the duties of the personal representative or about wills in general, talk to a resource like Wright Law Offices, PLLC.