Navigational bar Return to the Self Help Services: Probate home page Probate Forms Glossary of Probate Terms Alaska Court System website
Court System Home » Representing Yourself » Probate Home » Personal Representative Duties and Responsibilities

Personal Representative Duties and Responsibilities

What is a Personal Representative?

A Personal Representative is the person appointed by the court who handles the probate. The Personal Representative is responsible for all of the following:

The Forms and Instructions page has links to specific information about the different steps of the process.

Return to top of page

Does the court supervise the Personal Representative?

No. The Personal Representative can act on his or her own without the approval of the court. The Personal Representative keeps the court informed of his or her progress by filing all required documents. If an interested person thinks that the Personal Representative is not doing a good job, that person can bring up his or her concerns to the court, petition the court in formal probate to remove the Personal Representative or to open supervised administration. Supervised administration involves the highest level of court oversight and is usually granted only when there are serious concerns about the actions of the Personal Representative.

Return to top of page

Who can serve as the Personal Representative?

Any suitable individual 19 years or older. An organization, such as a bank or trust company, may also serve as the Personal Representative.

A person has "priority" or the right to serve as Personal Representative in the following order:

  1. A person nominated in the Will of the person who died.
  2. The spouse of the person who died if the Will makes a gift to him or her.
  3. Any person who receives a gift under the Will.
  4. The spouse of the person who died even if the Will does not make a gift to him or her or if there is no Will.
  5. Any heir of the person who died.
  6. Any creditor of the person who died if it has been 45 days since the person's death.

The person who died can nominate two or more persons to serve together as Co-Personal Representatives in his or her Will or, if there is no Will, two or more persons who have the same priority can serve together. Unless the Will says differently, Co-Personal Representatives must act together. But if one of the Co-Personal Representatives cannot serve or stops serving, the other Co-Personal Representative(s) can still serve.

You can ask the court to appoint a person who does not have priority by filing a petition for formal probate.

Return to top of page

If I have priority to serve as Personal Representative, do I have to serve?

No. You may tell the court in writing that you do not want to serve. In that case, the person with the next-highest priority may serve as the Personal Representative.

Return to top of page

What do I file to be appointed as Personal Representative?

If you are opening an informal probate, file an application with the probate court.

If you are opening a formal probate, file a petition with the probate court.

Return to top of page

How do I object to the appointment of the Personal Representative?

If you believe that the Personal Representative does not have the right to serve or is incapable of serving, you can object to his or her appointment by filing a petition in formal probate.

Return to top of page

What are the Personal Representative's responsibilities?

After being appointed the Personal Representative must do the following things:

Action
Timeline

Prepare and send Information to Heirs and Devisees.

Within 30 days of appointment as Personal Representative.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS (Form SS-4).

As soon as practical.

File a Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship with the IRS (Form 56).

As soon as practical.

Mail or deliver the Notice to Creditors to creditors who have claims against the decedent about which you know or could reasonably find out. Also, publish Notice to Creditors, once a week for 3 weeks.

As soon as practical.

Pay Family Allowance, Homestead Allowance and Exempt Property, if appropriate.

As soon as practical.

Prepare an Inventory of estate property.

Within 3 months of appointment as Personal Representative.

Check with the court for creditor claims when the time is up to make a claim.

4 months after date of first publication of Notice to Creditors.

Begin paying valid debts and creditor claims if the estate has enough property. See Debts and Creditor Claims for more information

4 months after date of first publication of Notice to Creditors.

Disallow creditor claims, if needed.

Within 4 months and 60 days of date of first publication of Notice to Creditors.

File an Estate Tax Return with the IRS (Form 706) if required.

Within 9 months from date of death.

File any Disclaimers with the probate court, if desired.

Within 9 months from date of death.

File a final Individual Income Tax Return with the IRS (Form 1040).

By April 15th of the year following the year of death.

File an Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts with the IRS (Form 1041), if necessary.

Usually by April 15th of the year following the year of death.

Transfer all property to the right persons and have those persons sign Releases.

After debts and creditor claims are handled.

File an Accounting with the probate court or ask the beneficiaries or heirs to sign waivers.

After all property is transferred.

File a Sworn Statement to close the probate or petition the court for a final hearing.

When probate is complete but at least 6 months after date of first publication of Notice to Creditors.

The Personal Representative will need to do many other practical tasks which are also described in the sections that follow. Also, the Forms and Instructions page has links to specific information about the different steps of the process.

Return to top of page

What is the "Information to Heirs and Devisees?"

Within 30 days after the court appoints you as the Personal Representative, you must send information to all of the heirs and devisees of the person who died telling them that you have opened the probate. You must include the heirs even if the person made a Will.

The Information must include the following:

You can send this information by regular mail or have it delivered personally.

Return to top of page

What tax documents do I need to file with the IRS?

You should file the following documents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

If you have any questions about how to prepare the IRS forms, you should talk to a probate lawyer, a tax lawyer or a certified public accountant. For more information on filing tax returns, see Federal Tax Matters.

Return to top of page

What is a Notice to Creditors?

This Notice tells creditors of the person who died that you have opened a probate and that they have four months from the first date of publication to file claims against the estate.

  1. You must publish the Notice once a week for three weeks in a row in a newspaper which is commonly read in the judicial district in which the probate is filed. It is a good idea to publish the Notice as soon as you are appointed as the Personal Representative because the probate cannot be closed until at least six months after the first date of publication. You do not need to publish this Notice if the estate qualifies as a small estate.
  2. You must mail or deliver the Notice personally to all creditors who have claims about which you know or could reasonably find out. If you do not do this, these creditors will have three years from the date of the person's death to bring their claims against the estate. For more information on creditor claims, including how to find creditors, how to file a claim as a creditor and what to do if a creditor files a claim, see Debts and Creditors.

Return to top of page

What do I do when the creditor claim period ends?

Most creditors have four months from the date of the first publication of the Notice to file claims against the estate either with you or the court. You then have 60 days to make a decision about whether to pay these claims. If you decide that a claim is not valid, you must file a "Disallowance of Claim."

For more information on creditor claims, including deciding whether to pay claims, filing a claim as a creditor and paying claims in the right order, see Debts and Creditors.

Return to top of page

What are Allowances and Exempt Property?

Allowances and exempt property are special payments that the Personal Representative makes to family members of the person who died from estate property. They can total up to $55,000 (or more in some cases). These payments are in addition to any shares that the family members receive from the estate (unless the Will says something differently).

The types of payments are generally as follows (more specific information can be found in the sections below):

Type
Value
Payable to

Homestead Allowance

$27,000

Surviving spouse of the person who died or if none, then divided between the person's minor and dependent children.

Family Allowance

Up to $18,000 (more in some cases)

Surviving spouse of the person who died and any minor children the person had to support and was supporting.

Exempt Property

$10,000

Surviving spouse of the person who died or if none, then divided between all of the person's children.

These payments have priority over all other claims, including creditor claims, debts, taxes and costs of probate. If there is not enough property in the estate to pay all of these special payments, the Homestead Allowance is paid first, the Family Allowance is paid next and Exempt Property is paid last.

Return to top of page

What is a Disclaimer?

A person "disclaims" property when he or she refuses to accept it after the person dies. A disclaimer is only valid if a person makes it before receiving or controlling the property. The person must describe the property in writing, sign the disclaimer and file it with the court or deliver it to the Personal Representative.

What is a "qualified" disclaimer?

This is a disclaimer made within nine months of the date of the person's death. It is "qualified" because the IRS does not treat you as the owner of the property for estate and gift tax purposes.

Where does the property go if I disclaim it?

As a general rule, it passes as if you died before the person who died either by intestacy or under the person's Will. But the rules are complicated and this is not always the case. If you want to make a disclaimer, it is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer.

Return to top of page

When should I transfer property to the persons who inherit it?

You will usually make payments from the estate in the following order although this can be different for each probate:

For specific information on when and how to transfer property to heirs and devisees, see Distribution of Estate Assets and Transferring Assets.

Return to top of page

Does the Personal Representative have the right to be paid?

Yes. The Personal Representative has the right to be paid a "reasonable" fee for his or her time handling the probate and to be reimbursed for reasonable expenses. Most Personal Representatives choose to be paid at an hourly rate. While there is no set amount of what hourly fee is considered reasonable, the hourly rate must be based on the factors in Probate Rule 7.1. Many people think $25-35/hour is a reasonable rate, but every case is different.

A Personal Representative can choose another reasonable method of payment such as a lump sum, a percentage of estate assets, or certain property of the person who died. If the Will sets out what the fee is, the Personal Representative must choose either the payment under the Will or a reasonable fee before he or she is appointed.

He or she can also choose to serve without being paid. If the Personal Representative is the only heir or beneficiary of the estate, he or she will often serve without payment because estate property usually passes without income tax but all Personal Representative fees must be reported as taxable income.

Return to top of page

How does the court decide whether a Personal Representative fee is reasonable?

The court looks at the following things:

You should keep good records of everything you do during the probate, including the date, time spent and a description for each day. Keeping track of time is helpful for the court, helps interested persons understand what you did for the estate and helps to justify your fee.

Return to top of page

What powers does the Personal Representative have?

The Personal Representative can do almost anything the person who died could do with estate property. The Personal Representative can buy and sell property, settle debts and taxes, make repairs, enter into contracts and leases, abandon property, make investments, participate in lawsuits and continue most business dealings, among other things.

The Personal Representative can hire agents to help with the probate, including lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers, investment advisors, real estate agents, appraisers and property caretakers. The Personal Representative can also hire family members to assist with his or her duties, if appropriate.

Return to top of page

Are individuals and businesses protected if they deal with the Personal Representative?

Yes. The Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration prove that the Personal Representative has the power to do the things that the person who died could. You can assume that the Personal Representative has all of the powers of an owner unless you actually know of a limitation. You do not need to follow up on what the Personal Representative does with the property once you give it to him or her.

Return to top of page

What duties does a Personal Representative owe to interested persons?

A Personal Representative is a fiduciary which means that he or she is acting in a position of trust and his or her actions are held to a very high standard. The Personal Representative must act for the benefit of interested persons in the estate and not for his or her own personal benefit. A Personal Representative must follow the law, act with care and manage the estate efficiently and fairly. If the Personal Representative does something improper, he or she can be personally responsible from his or her own funds for damages.

Return to top of page

How can I remove a Personal Representative?

You must have a good reason or "cause" to remove the Personal Representative. You must prove to the court that removal is in the best interest of the estate or show that the Personal Representative did bad things such as lying when being appointed, ignoring a court order, mismanaging the estate or failing to perform his or her duties.

An interested person can ask the court to remove the Personal Representative by filing a petition in formal probate. The court will schedule a hearing on your petition and you must give notice of the hearing to the Personal Representative and anyone else the court orders. When the Personal Representative has notice of your petition, he or she must stop acting except to preserve the estate.

You can also petition the court for a temporary restraining order to stop the Personal Representative from doing a specific act. The court will set a hearing within 10 days on your petition. You must give notice to the Personal Representative, the Personal Representative's lawyer and any other parties you name in your petition in the time that the court orders.

If you believe that the Personal Representative should be removed, it is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer.

Return to top of page

How do I close the probate?

After you have completed all of your tasks, you must file documents with the court to close the probate. There are two ways to close the probate:

  1. Sworn Statement. The most common way to close a probate is to file a Sworn Statement of Personal Representative with the court. You will keep your powers as Personal Representative for one year after you file the Sworn Statement. If there are no court proceedings at the end of the year, your appointment will end automatically. No court hearing is needed.
  2. Formal closing. You may also file a Petition for Final Settlement and Distribution that asks the court to close the probate formally. You can file this petition even if you have not opened a formal probate. The court will set a time and a date for a hearing. You must notify all interested persons of the hearing. At the hearing, the court will review the Inventory, Accounting and proposed distribution of any remaining property and listen to the concerns of all interested persons. If the court approves, it will close the probate and end your appointment immediately.

Return to top of page

Where can I find more information about the different Personal Representative tasks?

You can learn more about the:

Return to top of page


Rev. 21 July 2014
© Alaska Court System
www.courts.alaska.gov
webmaster@courts.state.ak.us
Adobe Acrobat PDF logo You'll need to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view and print documents with this symbol. If you are using a screen reader, get support and information at the Adobe Access website.