Personal Representatives are an essential part of the probate process and many of us will become one at some point in our lives. Given their importance what responsibilities do they have and what can they be liable for?
What is a Personal Representative?
A Personal Representative is the person responsible for dealing with whatever has been left behind when someone passes away. These assets could be property, financial investments or possessions and collectively they are called the Estate. If you are a Personal Representative then you have been given legal authority to deal with the Estate of the deceased person. This means that you’re responsible for handling what they’ve left behind and also that you may be held responsible if this isn’t done properly.
Executors and Administrators
If the deceased has left a Will then the Personal Representative will be called an Executor. If there is no Will then the correct term is Administrator. Executors are normally named in the Will but an Administrator is chosen according to the Rules of Intestacy. If there’s no Will then the Rules of Intestacy will also establish how the assets left behind should be distributed.
Executor legal responsibilities
If you’re named in a Will as the Executor then it’s likely you will need to apply for the Grant of Representation (also called the Grant of Probate). You will also need to identify and deal with any claims that are being made against the estate.
Other responsibilities as a Personal Representative
Tax – Inheritance Tax is the responsibility of a Personal Representative, both submitting the Inheritance Tax Return and making sure that the tax on the Estate is paid. You will also need to make sure that Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax returns have been completed and any tax due is paid.
Administration – it’s the responsibility of the Personal Representative to make sure that the deceased’s debts are paid, that assets are transferred and other liabilities dealt with. You will also be responsible for looking for any unclaimed assets.
Distribution – it falls to the Personal Representative to prepare and distribute Estate accounts to the beneficiaries, as well as managing the process of distributing the assets.
Personal Representative liability
If you are made a Personal Representative you should be aware that you can be held liable for any loss that results from what you do, or don’t do – even if your actions were in good faith. Mistakes, such as not paying the deceased’s debts, taxes or not distributing the assets correctly, can make you personally liable. The same goes for not correctly identifying the beneficiaries to the Will. Those who were expecting to benefit from a Will have up to six months to make a claim after the Grant of Representation has been issued. However, creditors have up to 12 years in which to take action against a Personal Representative.
If you’re made a Personal Representative and you’re not sure of your responsibilities then it’s important to get some help, not just to make sure that the process goes smoothly, but to protect yourself too. To speak to a Solicitor in Skipton call01756 799 000.