In their wills, people name who they wish to be the personal representative of their estate. The role of the personal representative is to settle the estate after the person’s death. Typically, the person chooses a relative or trusted friend who may or may not have any experience with the process. Most people do not take a class on being personal representative and may not know exactly what they need to do to settle the estate.
Authority of a personal representative
Personal representatives have various authority to basically gather the decedent’s property and assets. They have a number of powers, which include, but are not limited to:
- Taking possession of both personal and real property: If it is in the possession of another person or entity, the personal representative has the authority to take it back. However, title is not usually transferred to the personal representative unless they are also a beneficiary.
- Legal affairs: The personal representative also has the authority to reach settlements of lawsuits involving the decedent, such as a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Paying debts: Representatives have the authority to continue making payments on debts of the decedent when it is in the best interests of the estate to continue making payments.
- Inventory: Personal representatives must inventory all the decedent’s property and file the inventory with the court.
- Business affairs: They also have the authority to continue to run a business owned by the decedent for up to a month (or three months if the business is farming). They can continue to run the business beyond one month with court approval.
- Contracts: They can fulfill contractual obligations on the decedent
- Investment: They can invest funds from the estate if appropriate
- Banking: They can make bank deposits
- Taxes: They may also file joint tax returns on behalf of the decedent
In addition to authority listed above, personal representatives in Arkansas also need to administer the estate, ensure all the property ends up with the beneficiaries and file the appropriate probate paperwork to close the estate. This can be a complicated process and one that many people may not completely understand when they are first named personal representative. They may need the help of different professionals along the way and consulting with an experienced attorney could be beneficial.