As you are preparing to plan your estate, you might find that some of the titles and terms that are used in estate law can be confusing. These terms may also be confusing if you are someone who has been named as a person who is responsible for managing the estate of your loved one who has recently passed away. At Elder Care Direction, we can offer you some guidance whether you are trying to figure out what the different terms mean or if you need some help with understanding the responsibilities that you have.
What is a personal representative vs. an executor?
A personal representative is an umbrella term that can refer to either an executor or to an estate administrator. Whichever type of a personal representative a person might be, he or she will be considered to be a fiduciary. This means that they have ethical duties when they manage the affairs of other people. However, they can play different types of roles in an estate plan.
The executor’s role
An executor is someone who is named in a will to be responsible for managing the testator’s property after the testator has died. The executor must manage the property and distribute it according to the testator’s wishes as they are outlined in the will.
Some of the duties that executors have to complete include the following:
- Submit the will to the probate court;
- Inventory and value the probated property;
- Contact the beneficiaries who have been named in the will;
- Notify the creditors;
- Pay all valid claims;
- File the final tax returns;
- Pay estate, state, and federal income taxes; and
- Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.
During the time in which the executor is controlling the assets of the estate, he or she is responsible for losses that occur. A court may hold an executor personally liable for any losses.
An administrator’s role
An estate administrator is someone who is appointed by a court to manage the assets of a deceased person who dies without a will. If a will was not left behind, the estate will still need to be probated. State law may dictate the person who may be appointed by a court to serve as the administrator.
For instance, the surviving spouse may be the person who is chosen by courts in some states under their laws. In those states, a surviving spouse may choose not to serve as the administrator. The judge would then move to the next person on the list under the statute of who may serve.
An administrator has many of the same duties as an executor with the exception of validating a will. He or she must notify the interested parties and the creditors. He or she must inventory the assets and pay valid creditor claims. The administrator will also have to file final tax returns and distribute the assets under the state’s intestacy laws.
Get help from Elder Care Direction
The professionals at Elder Care Direction can help to save you time and money. We are able to assist you with the initial paperwork and with understanding the different responsibilities that you might have. If you need further legal assistance, we can refer you to one of our partner attorneys. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation.