The personal representative is the person who is named by the probate court to act on behalf of the estate after it is opened to carry out at least the following duties:
- marshal the assets of the estate
- notify creditors and review their claims
- pay estate expenses
- pay allowances to family members
- pay creditors
- distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries
In other states, this person is known as the executor (if there is a will) or the administrator (if not).
The person nominated in the decedent’s will is ordinarily chosen to carry out these functions.
A point that is often not appreciated by family members after a death occurs is that the person designated in the decedent’s will as personal representative does not automatically take on that role. That person does not have any authority to act until he has presented the will to the probate court, filed an application or petition to open the estate, given notice to or secured waivers from other family members, and obtained Letters of Authority to prove to interested persons that he has the authority to act. Until then, he has no legal authority to do any of the things that are listed above or to take control of any property belonging to the decedent.