If you have been named the Personal Representative of someone’s estate or the Trustee of a Trust, you may be unaware of all the details this responsibility entails. Most parents name a child as a personal representative, but seldom do children then do the necessary research to see what estate administration is all about – and when it comes time to take over these responsibilities, they panic or miss important deadlines and details.
Immediately following the death of the estate owner or trust grantor, personal representatives and trustees should:
Secure tangible property. It’s amazing how many things “walk away” from a decedent’s home right after they die. Someone may feel that their family member would have “wanted” them to have the silver collection, so they just take it. So it is important that personal representatives secure all the tangible property right away – especially if that property may require an appraisal – so they can plan for the distribution of the property as outlined in the decedent’s will.
Take your time. After you have secured the tangible property, take a little time to grieve before worrying about most financial matters. You will probably want to pay the most critical bills, but many can wait a month or two without repercussion. However, you do need to notify Social Security within 30 days of the death.
Talk with your attorney. Meet with your lawyer to get the guidance you need to properly administer the estate. Any fees incurred will be paid out of the estate, and not your pocket. The advice you get will be invaluable.
Here are some general rules for personal representatives for properly administering the estate:
1. Notify the probate court. You must file the will and petition at the probate court to be officially recognized as the personal representative. If there is no will, the heirs must petition the court to appoint a personal representative.
In Minnesota, we have formal and informal probate, and supervised and unsupervised administration. It is important that you know how the estate is going to be handled from the outset – choosing the wrong filing type can be a costly mistake.
2. Inventory the assets. You will need to make a list of everything the decedent owned and file that list with the probate court.
3. Open a checking account. You will need to open a checking account on behalf of the estate to pay bills and taxes.
4. File tax returns. You must file a final income tax return for the decedent. If the estate has any assets that earn interest, you must file an income tax return for the estate, as well. If the estate exceeds $3 million, you will need to file a Minnesota estate tax return, and if the estate exceeds $11 million, you will need to file a federal estate tax return – both within nine months of the date of death.
5. Distribute property. After any creditor claims are satisfied and the bills are paid, you will need to distribute the remaining property to heirs.
6. File a final account. You must file a final account with the probate court in order to close out the estate.
If you would like to have a talk about estate planning and administration, call our office at (612) 206-3701 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.
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