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What Does A Personal Representative Do?


A personal representative is the individual named in a will to serve as personal representative of the decedent’s estate. The personal representative, once appointed by the court, will be responsible for collecting all of the decedent’s assets, paying all bills, and making distributions pursuant to the terms of the decedent’s will.


Appointment as Personal Representative. The named personal representative must file the original will with the probate court within thirty (30) days of the decedent’s death. The named Personal Representative will also submit certain papers to the court, asking the court to appoint him or her as personal representative. Typically, an attorney prepares these documents.

After these documents are filed with the court, the named personal representative will share a copy of the will and the filed documents with all of the decedent’s heirs, and other beneficiaries (e.g. charities) under the will. If there are no objections, the named personal representative will be appointed as personal representative, typically within thirty (30) days.

After the personal representative is appointed, he or she will receive official papers (Domiciliary Letters), which he or she will use to liquidate assets and take other actions necessary to resolve the estate.

After Appointment. After appointment, the personal representative is responsible for liquidating the decedent’s assets, including:

  • House
  • Investment accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Other probate” assets

The personal representative is not legally responsible for non-probate” assets. These are accounts which pass directly to beneficiaries, such as retirement accounts, life insurance or POD” accounts. On these accounts, the beneficiaries will work directly with the financial institutions to claim their shares.

Debts. The personal representative will also pay all legitimate debts owed by the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death. 

Taxes. The personal representative will be responsible for ensuring that the decedent’s personal income tax returns are completed. The personal representative may also have to complete the estate’s income tax returns (called fiduciary” returns). The personal representative should hire a tax preparer to prepare these returns.

Inventory. During the probate process, the personal representative will file an inventory with the court, listing all probate assets (and their values) owned by the decedent.

Final Distributions. When all assets are sold or liquidated and all debts are paid, the personal representative will make the final distributions pursuant to the terms of the will. 

Final Paperwork. After all final distributions are made, the personal representative will collect signed receipts from the beneficiaries, and file the closing paperwork with the court.

A typical timeframe in which to complete an estate is 6 – 12 months.


The personal representative does not need to handle all of these duties personally. The personal representative should hire professionals, such as CPAs, attorneys and real estate agents.


The personal representative is entitled to take a fee of 2% of the estate assets. This fee is subject to income taxes in the year in which it is taken.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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