The person who is responsible for settling the estate of a deceased person is called the personal representative. If the decedent had a will, the personal representative is also referred to as the executor and if the decedent did not have a will, they are also referred to as the estate administrator. Regardless of the title, the job is essentially, the same: to manage the decedent’s estate, pay the decedent’s debts, and distribute their assets. Before they have the legal authority to perform the tasks required to settle the decedent’s estate, the personal representative must first petition the Probate Court and the court must formally appoint them. To learn more about the job of the personal representative, contact an experienced Maine executor duties and responsibilities lawyer.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Personal Representative in Maine
Once qualified, the personal representative must quickly move forward with the tasks necessary to settle the decedent’s estate.
- Inventory the assets. Throughout the administration process, the personal representative must care for estate assets. Thus, understanding what the decedent’s estate consists of is a priority for the personal representative. The personal representative must identify the assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate. While it will vary from estate to estate, examples of assets that might be part of a decedent’s probate estate include the decedent’s house, vehicles, contents of the decedent’s house, bank account, and collectibles. If you have questions about inventorying an estate, contact an experienced Maine executor duties and responsibilities lawyer. Next, the personal representative must figure out the value of the assets. For some assets, this may require the services of a professional appraiser. Under the Probate Code, the personal representative is allowed to employ qualified and disinterred appraisers to determine the fair market value of the assets. 18-A ME Rev Stat § 3-707. The personal representative must create an inventory of the assets that includes their fair market value.
- Pay estate debts. The debts of the decedent as well as the expenses of administration must be paid before assets can be distributed. Most decedents leave some debt behind. The debt may be credit card bills, personal loans, or car notes. They may be student loans or taxes. The debts may also include medical bills, including bills associated with their last illness. Most debts are not forgiven upon death. The decedent’s estate is responsible for paying them. Similarly, the estate is responsible for paying for expenses related to administration such as court filing fees and the fees of professionals such as attorneys and appraisers. Not all estates have sufficient assets to cover its debts. When this happens, with the help of an experienced executor duties and responsibilities attorney in Maine, the personal representative must look to state law which provides an order in which debts must be paid based on their classification.
- Asset distribution. Once debt and expenses are settled, with the permission of the Probate Court judge, the personal representative must distribute estate assets. If the decedent was testate, the personal representative will distribute assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries based on the instructions in the will. If the decedent was intestate, the personal representative will distribute assets to the decedent’s heirs based on Maine’s law of intestate succession.
Depending on the type of assets, asset distribution may be as simple as handing over the property to the new owner. If the asset is cash, the personal representative would have to issue a check to the new owner. With other types of property, a new title will have to be issued to the new owners.
Personal Representative Compensation
For their work, personal representatives are entitled to be compensated. Under the Maine Probate Code, if the will is silent, if there is no contract for compensation, or if there is no will, personal representatives are to receive “reasonable compensation.” 18-A ME Rev Stat § 3-719. As an experienced executor duties and responsibilities attorney serving Maine will explain, while the statute does not specify the factors that the court is to consider when determining whether a requested fee is reasonable, the factors that are commonly considered include: experience and skill of the personal representative, amount of work and difficulty of work performed, time constraints, and size and complexity of the estate.