When someone passes away, there affairs must be taken care of and finalized. For example, they may have property that must be passed on to others, they may have credit cards and utility accounts that must be paid and closed, and they may have other business that must be taken care of. While there may be family members such as a spouse, parents, or adult children who are willing and able to take on this responsibility, under Washington, D.C. law, it is the responsibility of the personal representative of the estate. While the court will appoint the personal responsibility, given that person the authority to take actions on behalf of the estate, if you are the personal representative, because of the legalities involved in the process, it is also a good idea to work with an experienced Washington, D.C. estate administration lawyer.
Note that there are multiple terms to describe a personal representative. Executor is the term that historically used if the personal representative appointed was the person named in the decedent’s will. Administrator is the terms that is used if the person was not named in the decedent’s will. Unless the court restricts the personal representative’s authority, the authority, duties, and responsibilities of the personal representative are the same regardless of whether or not the person was named in the decedent’s will.
Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor in Washington, D.C.
Before a personal representative has the legal authority to take actions on behalf of an estate, they must have been appointed the court. Anyone seeking to be appointed should initiate the probate case by filing a petition with the court. In Washington, D.C., the Superior Court has jurisdiction over probate matters and serves as the probate court. It is located at 515 5th Street, NW, on the third floor.
Once the court approves the petition and appoints the personal representative, the person appointed as the right to move forward and take action to settle the decedent’s estate. The duties and responsibilities include: managing estate property, paying estate bills, and distributing estate assets.
- Manage estate property. The first major task of the personal representative is to take control of the decedent’s estate. They must identify estate assets, determine the value of the estate, and manage it. This means that they must makes sure the property is secure so that its value does not deteriorate. An experienced Washington, D.C. estate administration lawyer can help determine the value of the assets and prepare an inventory.
- Pay estate bills. As an experienced executor duties and responsibilities attorney in Washington D.C., most debt does not go away with someone’s death. It is part of the job of the personal representative to manage the claims process and make sure debts are paid. They must also make sure expenses related to administration are paid.
- Distribute estate assets. While many believe that the main purpose of the estate administration process is to distribute assets, it is important to understand that asset distribution can only happen once debts and expenses paid. It is the last major task in the process. If there are more liabilities than assets, there may be nothing to distribute. The persona representative must distribute assets according to the terms of the will. If there is no will, then they must look to Washington, D.C.’s intestate succession statute for guidance as to who is legally entitled to receive estate property. D.C. Code Ann. § 20-301 et seq.
Compensation of the Personal Representative
The work of settling the estate of a decedent can involve many hours over many months. In fact, in Washington, D.C. the estate administration process usually takes about 8-12 months and can take a lot more time if there is litigation. Understanding that time and effort involved, Washington law states that personal representatives are entitled to reasonable compensation for their work. D.C. Code Ann. § 20-751. To learn more about how the court determines whether a bill submitted by the personal representative is appropriate, contact an experienced executor duties and responsibilities attorney in Washington D.C.