When someone dies, a probate court usually appoints someone to handle the deceased person’s affairs, including collecting their property, paying their debts, and distributing anything remaining to the heirs. When the deceased person had a will, this individual is called the executor, and when they did not, the person who manages the process is called the administrator. The term “personal representative” applies whether the person is an executor or an administrator.
When you are the personal representative of an estate, it is important to learn about the probate process, because asset administration in Tustin probate can be confusing. Reach out to an experienced probate attorney when you have questions or need help.
Collecting the Estate’s Assets
The personal representative must inventory all the estate’s assets and make efforts to collect any debts owed to the deceased person when they died. The representative must also gain access to the deceased person’s bank accounts and other funds, and have real estate and valuable personal property (like collections and vehicles) appraised.
The probate court typically assigns a probate referee to help with assessing the value of non-monetary assets. Sometimes the personal representative must hire appraisers to establish the value items like art collections or antique vehicles. The estate funds should pay the cost of appraisals and other activity necessary to achieve an accurate valuation of the estate property.
The personal representative must keep meticulous records of estate activity. At the end of the process, the judge will review the estate records to ensure the personal representative handled their duties properly. At any time, one of the heirs could request an accounting to oversee how the personal representative is handling estate matters. A lawyer in Tustin with experience in asset administration during probate could ensure all records are up to date and accurate.
Personal Representative Must Pay the Estate’s Debts
Ensuring the deceased’s debts are paid is another critical job of the personal representative. California Probate Code § 9050 requires personal representatives to inform creditors like mortgagers, credit card companies, and banks of the person’s death and get a current accounting of the amount owed. The personal representative also must pay the funeral expenses and any unpaid medical bills.
The personal representative must file final tax returns for the deceased person for the year of their death. Unless the personal representative has expertise in taxation, it is wise to engage a CPA or tax attorney to handle this aspect of estate management.
All debts are paid from estate funds, and the personal representative might have to sell some estate assets to raise the money to pay the debts. Many creditors will settle a debt for less than is owed if the representative pays quickly. It could be tempting to take advantage of such an offer, but the representative should be cautious and consult an attorney with knowledge of asset administration in Tustin probate before agreeing to settle the debt. When they pay one creditor and there is not enough money in the estate to satisfy all creditors, the representative is personally liable.
Closing the Estate
Six to twelve months after appointing a personal representative, the probate court holds a hearing to finalize the estate. At the hearing, the court will determine how the estate’s remaining assets should be distributed and set a deadline for completion. The personal representative is responsible for getting the assets to the heirs in accordance with the court’s orders.
The representative must take care when distributing assets to ensure the new owner has full legal rights to the property. It could be necessary to change the titles to real estate, boats, vehicles, and similar items. When the estate earned interest or made a profit on the sale on any assets, the personal representative must file an estate tax return.
When all estate matters are complete, the representative submits a Final Plan and Accounting, which describes the actions they took while managing the estate. A Tustin attorney who handles asset administration in probate could help a personal representative prepare the report, which the judge must review and approve. Personal representatives often are also heirs, but until the estate is settled, they cannot act in their own interests when doing so will reduce the funds available to pay creditors or distribute to other heirs.
Consult a Tustin Attorney for Help With Probate Asset Administration
Asset administration in Tustin probate can be challenging. Depending on the situation, you might have to sell assets to pay creditors, which can complicate and delay the process.
Working with an experienced lawyer at Amity Law Group can make things easier. Call today to schedule a consultation.