Personal Representative Duties Explained

If someone finds you responsible and trustworthy enough to handle their affairs after their death, you should be honored; not everyone is capable of fulfilling the duties of a personal representative (or executor). These people, chosen by the living owner of an estate, must be discreet, fair, honest, and organized. The primary tasks of a personal representative consist of seeing the estate through the probate process, administrating the estate during probate, and disbursing the estate to the named beneficiaries after the probate process is complete. To get a brief explanation of the main personal representative duties, read on.

Accepting the appointment

Though an honor, you should not accept the appointment without considering the challenges and time needed to get the job done. The duties vary depending on the size of the estate, but a consultation with the estate attorney might give you an idea of what you could be in for if you accept the job. You should understand that this position carries with it more than just responsibility, but a legal responsibility to manage the estate properly or face the potential for a lawsuit.


One of your first duties, upon the estate owner's death, is to gather together needed documents:

  1. The will can often be located in a locked box, drawer, safe, or safe deposit box. If need be, the estate attorney can provide you with a copy.
  2. Life and burial insurance policies will be needed to pay for the burial and funeral expenses. One of the first duties of the personal representative is to ensure that there are funds available for these events.
  3. Bank account (saving and checking) information should be located as soon as possible, since you will be responsible for converting the accounts to estate-owned accounts. Investment and retirement account info will be needed as well.
  4. Deeds and titles to property.
  5. Tax returns
  6. Safe deposit boxes often hold important documents, as well as property that you will be responsible for distributing.
  7. It may take a few weeks for the death certificates to become available, but ensure that several copies of the certificates are ordered. You will be responsible for sending those to the Social Security Administration, the IRS, creditors, and more.

Probate the will.

As soon as possible, meet with the estate attorney and work with them to probate the will, a process that can take several months to complete.

Duties during probate.

While you wait for probate to be completed, stay on top of any bills that need to be paid and any maintenance needed on the property. An inventory of all assets will be needed, as well as a real estate appraisal.

Distribute the property

Once the will has cleared probate, you must allow the beneficiaries to claim their property.

Speak with an estate planning attorney to learn more about the duties of a personal representative.