In Alaska, when someone passes away, the Superior Court will appoint someone to manage the decedent’s estate through the estate administration process. This person is called the personal representative. Other terms for the role include executor or administrator. Serving as a personal representative can require a significant amount of work and time. The roles requires keeping things extremely organized, upholding a high level of fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the estate, and carrying out estate administration as smoothly as possible. Those appointed to do this job are not required to fulfill their executor duties for free. Alaska law states that personal representatives are entitled to reasonable compensation. AK ST § 13.16.430
Understanding the Role of Personal Representative
When a person passes away, an individual needs to be appointed to manage the deceased person’s estate. The role of this personal representative is to distribute and settle the assets of the estate according to the terms of the deceased’s will. If there is no will in place, Alaska’s intestacy laws will determine the order in which property is passed on. AK ST § 13.12.101
There are two ways that a person can become a personal representative in Alaska. They can be appointed in a will to serve as the executor of the estate. If no will exists or if no executor was named in an existing will, Alaska law determines the people who have priority to serve as a personal representative. If someone wishes to serve as personal representative, they must file a petition with the court requesting appointment. If this is approved, the court will issue an order known as letters of administration or letters testamentary which formally confirms this appointment and enables that personal representative to begin taking action on behalf of the estate.
Role of a Personal Representative
In Alaska the personal representative is responsible for many aspects of wrapping up the affairs of the deceased person. This involves:
- Identifying, securing, appraising, inventorying, and managing estate property
- Notifying creditors and paying estate debt and expenses related estate administration
- Filing and paying taxes
- Distributing assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs
A personal representative must exercise a high level of duty of care in performing these duties.
This is the same standard of care as a trustee.
A personal representative in Alaska is entitled to be paid a reasonable sum for the performance of their duties. AK ST § 13.16.430. Payment is made from the assets of the estate to the personal representative. Unlike many other states, the Alaska statute does not give specifics about how to calculate a reasonable fee. Generally, the personal representative will keep track of their hours and submit a bill to the court. As long as the fee is in line with what is generally charged for settling an estate of the same general size in the same area, the court will approve the fee.
Note that if the personal representative is required to perform unusual activities such as deal with estate litigation, find missing heirs, manage the decedent’s small business, or deal with complicated tax issues, the court will approve a higher fee.
In addition, an interested party can object to the personal representative’s request for payment. If there is evidence that the personal representative did not perform their duties as they should, the court has the discretion to pay a lower fee or none at all.
Expenses Related to Estate Administration
The personal representative will be able to get reimbursement from estate assets for expenses related to administering the estate. These can include copying, phone calls, travel, legal fees, appraisals, postage, legal notices, filing fees, recording fees, shipping fees and cleaning. A personal representative will often end up spending money out of their own pocket especially if they are a family member of the deceased.
If the personal representative is required to engage in estate litigation, the related expenses will be paid from estate assets as long as the personal representative defends or prosecutes the matter in good faith. AK ST § 13.16.435