When your Uncle Joe created his will and wished to name you his personal representative, you readily agreed, thinking the required responsibilities were still years away.
Now that your uncle has died unexpectedly, you will have to administer his estate much sooner than anticipated. What are your duties as Uncle Joe’s personal representative?
First, you must locate the will or trust. If your uncle established a living trust, his estate might avoid the probate process. If there is only a will, you must file it with the probate court. Next, following your uncle’s death, you must notify his bank, investment firm and other entities. The funeral home will provide you with copies of the death certificate, which you must also use when filing Uncle Joe’s final tax returns. If applicable, send a copy to the Social Security Administration so they can immediately discontinue his benefits.
A large part of your responsibility as a personal representative is protecting the estate’s assets. The attorney who prepared your uncle’s will likely has a list. It is your job to make investments if necessary and ensure that no one takes so much as a teaspoon out of Uncle Joe’s estate until it is time for you to distribute assets according to his instructions.
If your uncle did not keep a record of monthly income and debts, go to his checkbook to begin your search for information. Look through his mail, email and former tax returns. Once you are ready to collect income and pay bills, you can open a bank account in the name of the estate.
Do not hesitate to ask questions of an accountant, attorney or other professional. You want to close your uncle’s estate successfully without making any legal missteps.