Category: Estate Administration

What is a personal representative?

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Apr 13, 2015.

In the world of estate planning and wills, a personal representative is the person appointed by a testator to manage all the details and legal matters of the estate after the testator’s death. This is the person you appoint in your will to oversee the distribution of your assets, to pay your debts and taxes, and to make sure the particulars of your will are carried out. It’s a big job. A personal representative is a fiduciary — he or she has a legal duty to manage your estate with honesty and diligence, to act in good faith in all matters related to your estate. The law expects such a high level of integrity because the personal representative has a good deal of authority. When you die, your personal representative takes your place: He or she controls and legally possesses your personal property and your real estate (unless you have allowed an heir or devisee to live there, and the arrangement does not interfere with the rights of another heir or devisee). Your personal representative can liquidate your assets if necessary. If you owe a lot of money at the time of your death, or if your estate and inheritance taxes are more than your checking account can cover, your personal representative may even sell off your real estate to pay the bills. Many of the tasks of a personal representative are simple common sense: Find the heirs, distribute the assets, pay the bills and so on. What you need […]

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Parents as intestate heirs or ‘Where have you been all my life?’

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in Estate Administration on Mar 1, 2015.

It really does not pay to assume anything when you’re dealing with probate and estate planning. First, you never know what a day will bring. As harsh as it sounds, there is no reason on earth to postpone writing an estate plan, because your loved ones could need it tomorrow. Second, don’t assume that you can just let the state intestacy laws take care of your property, that your plans and state law mesh nicely if you don’t have a will. The rules of intestate succession — that is, the state laws that dictate how your property will be distributed if you die without a will — may be more complicated than you think. The estate of actor Cory Monteith offers an example of one particular complication: the absent parent. Monteith died in 2013 at the age of 31. Without a wife or children, the general rule is that his parents will share equally in his estate. But Monteith’s parents split up when he was 9, and the actor had little contact with his father for the next 10 or 15 years. Wouldn’t it be unfair, then, for his absentee father to receive half of Monteith’s estate? Both the law and Monteith’s mother thought so. She was able to petition the court in the matter, and Monteith’s dad eventually signed a document that confirmed that he had not paid child support and had not had much contact with Monteith while he was growing up. So there is an exception. It […]

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