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You were Named as a Personal Representative now What do You do

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

The purpose of estate planning in Idaho is to give an individual an opportunity to make a specific plan for themselves while they are alive and to distribute their property, money, and other assets after they die. A major part of estate planning is for an individual to use their last will and testament to name another person who will serve as their personal representative after they die. In Idaho a personal representative is the same thing as an executor. Because there is no legal requirement that an individual consent to being named as a personal representative in a last will and testament, we often have clients who come to us who were surprised to find that they were named by another individual to be their personal representative. In this instance, these individuals come to us so we can help them understand what their responsibilities are.

The Racine Law Office is a premier Idaho estate planning firm that has assisted clients for over 70 years in Idaho in completing their estate planning and in helping family members with probate proceedings when a loved one dies. Our team of experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorneys includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of the attorneys on our team has years of experience in helping clients navigate Idaho Estate Planning and probate laws and proceedings.

If you have been named as a personal representative for a family member or other individual, and that person has passed away, you are now faced with several duties and obligations. We are confident that we can help you find your way through all necessary proceedings and help you complete your responsibilities. To help you get started here are three specific things that you should know if you were appointed as a personal representative for another person.

Seek Professional Help

The bar-none, absolute, number one piece of advice that we can give to any client who has been named as a personal representative is to seek professional help. By this we mean you should find a qualified and experienced attorney who can help you with everything you need to do. The job of an experienced Idaho probate lawyer is to explain the probate process to you in simple terms so that you can understand what needs to be done. Additionally, their job is to guide you in completing all the duties and obligations that you have as the personal representative.

There have been countless times that individuals have attempted to complete a probate on their own and then later come to us to help them out after big problems arise. In this instance it almost always costs more money to fix the problems that have occurred than it would have to have started with a probate attorney in the first place to make sure things are done correctly from the beginning. We always recommend that you seek the professional legal help you need at the start.

In addition to hiring an experienced probate attorney, you may also need assistance from other professionals to help you as well. These other professionals may include accountants, financial advisors, property managers, auction houses, and so forth. By starting with an experienced Idaho probate attorney you can receive advice about other professional services and individuals you may need to obtain that will help you complete your responsibilities as the personal representative.

Read the Will

Once you have an experience Idaho lawyer helping you with the probate process, the next most important step is to read the last will and testament. This document, so long as it is legally enforceable, provides the instructions and roadmap for everything that you are required to do as the personal representative. Specifically, the last will and testament will tell you exactly who all of the property, money, and assets of the person who died are to go to through the probate distributions. For example, it may be as simple as transferring property from the person who died to their living spouse. Alternatively, the last will and testament may create a testamentary trust, or a Special Needs Trust, or a Minor’s trust, that will need to be administered for some time after the probate is completed. It could be possible that you were named not only as a personal representative but also as the trustee of one of these trusts as well.

By reading the actual last will and testament you will understand exactly the intent of the person who died. As a personal representative, Idaho requires you to fulfill the intent of the decedent. If there are any disputes or problems that arise and a court becomes involved in the probate process in a formal way, the court will only seek to fulfill the intent of the person who died.

The final reason that reading the last will and testament is important is because often individuals who create a last will and testament provide the personal representative with a good deal of discretion. The actual words in the last will and testament will spell out whether you have discretion in making decisions or whether you are required to follow the instructions in the last will and testament specifically. More than likely it will be a bit of both. By reading the last will and testament you will get an understanding of exactly how much discretion you have in carrying out the intentions of the person who died.

Keep Detailed Records

The third specific thing that you should know if you’ve been appointed as a personal representative is the importance of keeping detailed written records of everything that you do as you complete the probate. This would include dealing with cash and money in bank accounts, paying creditors and other bills, paying for the expenses of the funeral, paying for hospital bills and other health related expenses, creating an inventory of all of the property, money, and assets, that were owned by the decedent on the day they died, as well as distributions and transfers that are made throughout the probate process.

By being named as the personal representative one of the duties and responsibilities you have is to protect and preserve all of the property in the estate. By having detailed records you can show that you weren’t taking money for yourself or giving it away to those who it was not supposed to go to. Rather you will have written evidence that you properly handled all the property and money in the estate.

Additionally, one of the rights you have as the personal representative is to be paid a reasonable amount for the time you’ve spent administering the probate estate. We usually advised that our personal representatives keep a log of the time they’ve spent doing certain actions for the estate. Then, before the final distributions are made, the personal representative can lawfully pay themselves the amount that they have kept recorded for the time they’ve spent.

This article provides just a short summary of the many things that you should understand and know if you’ve been named as a personal representative. Each particular probate case is unique, which could easily lead to other specific things that must be completed. We advised each of our clients to seek the professional help they need through a qualified Idaho probate attorney to help them properly accomplish all of their duties and responsibilities. We have helped numerous clients do this in the past, and we are confident that we can help you too.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Idaho estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or need a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at racine@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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