In California, the Probate process includes appointing someone to act as the Personal Representative of the estate. The Personal Representative is either an executor named in someone’s will or an administrator appointed by the court when there is no will or the will does not name an executor. This is the person who actually handles all of the affairs of the estate; the Court does not do it personally. If you serve as a Personal Representative, it is important that you know what your duties are as you can be held personally liable for not fulfilling them.
The first thing that a Personal Representative normally needs to do is to determine what the assets of the estate are and what the value of them is. This is easy with monetary assets. However, valuable personally property items might need to be appraised. If there are any continuing bills of the estate, the Personal Representative will need to use the estate’s assets to pay them. For example, if the estate includes real estate with a mortgage attached, then the Personal Representative needs to pay the mortgage. The Personal Representative also has the duty to pay any valid debts of the deceased from the estate assets. Finally, the Personal Representative distributes the estate the deceased’s named beneficiaries or heirs.
How the Personal Representative actually carries out all of these duties is the subject of the Probate Code. It can be complicated, so if you are appointed to serve as a Personal Representative, seek out an experienced and qualified Probate attorney to assist you.