In both informal and formal probate proceedings in Colorado, if a person does not designate a personal representative in their will, the court will assign someone to this role. Personal representatives have many duties regarding the winding up of the decedent’s estate. It is important that they understand what these duties are, as they could face personal liability should they fail to properly fulfill their role.
The personal representative must provide notice of the decedent’s passing, either in an area newspaper or through the mail, to any known or possible creditors of the decedent. These creditors’ claims must be paid out of the decedent’s estate. This means the personal representative will likely have to create an estate inventory, assign a value to estate assets, consolidate estate assets and/or liquidate estate assets. All applicable tax returns must also be completed and paid out of the estate funds.
Personal representatives also must identify heirs to the decedent’s estate. These heirs may be named in the decedent’s will, or they will be identified per the laws of intestate succession in the absence of a will. A personal representative will be responsible for managing the estate assets until they are distributed to the proper heirs. Personal representatives must be impartial and treat all heirs the same.
Being a personal representative to an estate is an important role, but it requires a good deal of knowledge and responsibility. Most people have never had to administer an estate before, and they may not know how to proceed. Thus, it can help for those who have been named the personal representative of an estate to seek professional guidance on the matter, to ensure they properly fulfill their duties throughout the probate process.