July 16, 2017
Five Potential Problems for Personal Representatives
If this is your first time handling a probate estate, you are not alone. Most people have never probated an estate until a parent or spouse passes away. For a person who is not familiar with the process of administering an estate, the process can be overwhelming and frustrating.
A personal representative has many duties and responsibilities, some of which can create legal consequences for the individual if mistakes or errors are made. Probate court staff can provide general information about required forms, deadlines, and responsibilities. However, staff members are not attorneys, and they are not allowed to provide legal advice. In some cases, a personal representative may need the assistance of a Michigan estate attorney to help ensure the estate is administered according to Michigan probate laws.
What Should You Consider as a First-Time Personal Representative?
Below are five issues that our attorneys often see first-time personal representatives struggle with when attempting to satisfy the requirements and responsibilities of being a personal representative.
- Requirements for Probate — Locating a will, determining heirs, meeting deadlines, deciding which assets are subject to probate, completing forms, obtaining appraisals, preparing an inventory, reviewing and paying claims, dealing with business interests, and reviewing trust requirements are just some of the duties a personal representative may be required to perform when administering the estate. The more complex the estate, the more responsibility and duties the person may have as the estate proceeds through each step in the process. For a lay person who has no experience with these matters, it is easy to become overwhelmed. An estate attorney can provide guidance and support to help reduce your stress and anxiety.
- Safeguarding Estate Assets — It is your duty as personal representative to protect the estate assets until it is time to distribute these assets to heirs. This can become difficult if you have heirs who are trying to “grab” certain personal items or liquidate valuable items to secure funds now rather than later. You could find yourself in a possession where you need to act quickly to prevent assets from being lost. The quicker you inventory the assets, the easier it will be to protect those assets.
- Family Conflicts — It is unfortunate, but some estates are the subject of intense family conflicts. Some family members may believe they are entitled to certain assets regardless of what the will or the law states. In some cases, family members may contest the will. If you feel uncomfortable with the level of conflict, you can retain counsel to help handle matters for you so that you are not alone.
- Filing Tax Returns — Filing individual and estate tax returns is often a source of stress for a personal representative. In addition to dealing with the deadlines and requirements of probating the estate, you must also worry about preparing and filing tax returns. Our attorneys have experience with estate tax returns and can help you with this aspect of the estate.
- Personal Liability — You can be held personally liable for your inactions and your actions while acting as a personal representative. For anyone who does not have experience acting in this capacity, we recommend seeking help from an experienced Michigan estate lawyer to reduce the risk of personal liability for mistakes, errors, and damages.
Do You Need Help Probating an Estate in Michigan?
If this is your first time acting as a personal representative, we can help. You can contact the probate lawyers of The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA by calling 888-390-4360. You may also contact our office by using the contact form on our website to request more information or schedule an appointment to discuss probating an estate in Michigan.