Role of a Personal Representative
When a person dies, someone will need to deal with their affairs and administer their estate. That role is entrusted to a personal representative (more commonly referred to as an executor if the deceased left a valid Will).
The role of a personal representative is to administer the estate of the deceased and it is worth bearing in mind that this process is more complicated if there is no Will in place or if there are assets abroad. In some instances, a personal representative will need to take court action to protect and secure the assets of the estate for the beneficiaries.
If necessary, a personal representative can register the death and arrange the funeral. As pre-paid funeral plans are becoming increasingly popular, it is worth checking amongst the deceased’s paperwork and making enquiries about the existence of such a plan. The funeral account will be paid from the funds in the estate but the personal representative may be required to pay an upfront deposit for which they can be reimbursed from the estate in due course.
In the majority of cases, a Grant of Representation (also known as a Grant of Probate if there is a Will) will be required. The personal representative will need to obtain date of death valuations of the estate as at the date of death. If the estate is taxable then Inheritance tax will need to be paid. This will come from the funds held by the deceased but if these are not easily accessible, the personal representative may need to apply for a loan. It is the responsibility of the personal representative to ensure that the correct amount of tax has been paid, and paid on time.
Once the Grant has been issued, the personal representative will collect the assets of the estate, pay any bills and distribute what is left in accordance with the terms of the Will if there is one, or the Intestacy Rules if there is no Will in place. It is also a legal requirement for the personal representative to finalise the deceased’s tax affairs and this may require them to complete tax returns.
Once the estate has been administered, the personal representative should provide the beneficiaries of the estate with estate accounts detailing the financial transactions which have taken place during the administration of the estate and account to the beneficiaries for the monies they have received. The personal representative must show that they have acted in accordance with the terms of the Will or the Intestacy Rules.
The role and responsibilities of a personal representative are onerous and are not to be undertaken lightly. It is crucial that the right person be appointed with the relevant skills to deal with the administration of an estate in an efficient and timely fashion. We would always recommend you obtain professional advice. Without taking legal advice there is a risk that claims could be made against the personal representative for which they could be personally liable.
Solicitors can either act on your behalf in administering the estate or they can offer guidance and assistance throughout the process, carrying out certain tasks on your behalf.