Losing a loved one is an emotional process. When people are grieving, they may not initially be thinking of what will happen to their loved one’s assets. However, there are legalities that must be followed with regards to the distribution of the deceased’s assets.

Estates must be administered by a personal representative, either designated in a person’s will or selected by the court if there is no will. A person’s estate is comprised of both real estate and personal property. Personal representatives named in a will are known as executors, and those chosen by the court are known as administrators. In either case, a personal representative has many important duties.

Personal representatives must locate the deceased’s will and probate it. They must locate and notify the deceased’s heirs of the probating of the deceased’s estate. They also must collect and protect estate assets. They must pay any debts and taxes owed, using estate assets to cover these costs. Finally, they must distribute the estate assets to the heirs named in the will or through the laws of intestate succession if the deceased did not have a will.

This is only a general overview of a personal representative’s duties with regards to administering an estate and is meant for information purposes not as specific legal advice. Depending on the situation, there may be additional duties not listed here that a personal representative is responsible for. The estate administration process is nuanced, so it is often necessary to work with an experienced estate attorney, to ensure all pertinent laws are being followed.