A personal representative, sometimes called an executor or estate administrator, is the person who manages the estate of a deceased person during the estate administration process. While many do not view the role as a job, it is job. In most instances the role is short-term, lasting no more than about 6-12 months. In other instances, the job takes over a year—sometimes years. Whether the job is short term or long term, the job of a personal representative is a paid position. Wyoming law states that a personal representative is entitled to receive compensation for their services according to the compensation structure described in the statute. Wy. Stat. § 2-7-803. Like many other jobs, if the personal representative does more than the ordinary work that personal representatives are expected to do, they may receive additional compensation—a “bonus.”
General Duties and Responsibilities
In Wyoming, the job of a personal representative is to perform the steps required to settle the estate of a deceased person. These tasks include taking control of the decedent’s assets, paying the decedent’s debts and the expenses of administration, and distributing estate assets.
Taking Control of Estate Assets. One of the first tasks of that the personal representative must take care of is identify the assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate. This can be a fairly straightforward task, especially if the decedent’s assets are restricted to their house, the contents of their house, their vehicle, and a bank account. However, if the decedent’s assets are in multiple locations, identifying them and taking control of them may be more challenging. Once the personal representative has taken control of them, the personal representative must determine their value and create an inventory.
Paying Estate Bills. In addition to asset distribute, one of the main goals of estate administration is to pay debt owed by the estate. Some of the debt are bills that the decedent left unpaid. In order for creditors to get paid, the must follow a formal claims process that begins with the personal representative notifying creditors about how to file claims and the deadline.
Other debt is accrued during the administration process, such as expenses related to the ongoing upkeep of the estate property. For example, if there is a house in the estate, the person representative would need to make that the utilities and homeowner’s insurance are paid until the house is transferred to its new owner.
In addition, expenses related to the estate administration process must be paid. This includes court costs, appraisal fees, and attorney’s fees. It also includes the fee paid to the personal representative. Note that before any debt, claim, or expense can be paid, the personal representative must receive authorization from the probate court.
Distributing Assets. Before the estate can be “closed,” all assets must be distributed from the estate. In other words, the estate must be clear of debt and assets. The personal representative distributes the assets based on instructions in the will or based on Wyoming’s law of intestate succession.
Extraordinary Services. Most of the time the tasks that the personal representative must undertake are fairly routine. However, in some instances they are far from routine, resulting in additional work, additional time, additional expense, and addition expertise.
- Litigation. While litigation during estate administration is not common, it does happen. It can be based on a will contest, on a claim against the estate, or problems with a fiduciary. If the personal representative must defend or initiate litigation, particularly if the litigation is protracted, the personal representative will have much more work to do and will have to put much more time into the job.
- Tax Matters. Generally, the personal representative is required to file the last personal tax return for the decedent. However, if the here are complicated tax issues associated with the decedent’s personal return or related to the estate, the amount of work may become much more than ordinary, requiring more time and additional expertise.
- Operate Business. If the decedent owned a small business, the probate court may require the personal representative to make sure that the business continues to operate. This may require the personal representative to personally run it or to manage others who run it. This is not a “usual” activity of the personal representative. It would be considered an extraordinary service.
Executor Compensation in Wyoming
General compensation. According to Wyoming law, for their general work, the amount of compensation that a personal representative is entitled to receive is based on the value of estate’s probate assets as follows:
- 10.0% for the first $1,000
- 5.0% for assets with a value of $1,000 to $5,000
- 3.0% for assets with a value over $5,000 and up to $20,000
- 2.0% for assets with a value over $20,000
Wy. Stat. § 2-7-803
Extraordinary services compensation. Recognizing that personal representatives are required to perform much more than the services that estates generally require during the administration process. If the personal representative had to handle tax matters, litigation, or other unusual, time-consuming issues, they court may approve an additional fee.