Personal Representative Appointment
A personal representative is a person who is appointed to oversee the administration of the financial affairs of someone who has passed away. This person may be referred to as an “executor” or an “administrator,” depending on the circumstances in which they are appointed.
An executor is a person that the decedent has specifically named in a valid will to oversee the administering of the decedent’s estate. However, if the deceased person has not left a will, or if they have not named an executor, the probate court will designate a personal representative who is accountable to the court. In such a case, the personal representative is called an administrator.
In either case, the role of the personal representative is to take control and inventory of the decedent’s property, pay their outstanding taxes and bills, and ensure that their assets are transferred to the beneficiaries of the estate.
If you need assistance appointing an executor to manage your estate, or if you have been designated as a personal representative for another person’s will, the legal team at Staubus and Randall is here to help you with all aspects of the process. Our experienced Dallas estate planning attorneys can help you make sure that your last wishes, or those of your loved one, are carried out in a manner that aligns with the best interests of you and your family.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help you with your specific situation, call us today at 214-691-3411 or contact us online.
Who May Serve as a Personal Representative in Texas?
According to Texas State Code, there are two basic requirements for who can serve as personal representatives. The person must be:
- at least 18 years of age, and
- of sound mind—that is, not judged by the court to be incapacitated.
There are a few further restrictions to keep in mind. Those who have been convicted of federal or state felonies are ineligible to serve as personal representatives unless they have been pardoned or had all their civil rights restored.
Furthermore, a probate court will reject potential executors who it finds to have a conflict of interest or is otherwise “unsuitable” (see Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 304.003; 931 S.W.2d 607).
You can name a corporation as your executor, provided that it is authorized to act as a fiduciary in Texas. In general, however, it is preferable to name an individual unless you have a particularly large and complex estate or if you do not know an individual you trust enough to serve in this role.
While non-residents of the state of Texas can serve as your personal representative, they will need to appoint someone who lives in-state to serve as resident agent. The in-state agent will accept legal documents on behalf of the estate. For simplification purposes, it is usually better to appoint someone who lives near you, as they may need to handle day-to-day affairs for weeks, months, or even longer.
Who Is Entitled to Preference in the Appointment of a Personal Representative?
Provided the individuals are qualified, the probate court grants Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration in the following order of preference:
- The person the decedent’s will names as executor
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s principal devisee
- Any devisee of the decedent
- The decedent’s next of kin
- A creditor of the decedent
- Any resident of the county who is of good character and who applies for the letters
In the event that two or more people are equally entitled to serve, the court will appoint the individual who it deems to be most capable of administering the estate effectively. Contact us today if you have pressing questions.
What Are the Personal Representative’s Responsibilities?
Personal representatives are tasked with the following:
- Obtain a copy of the decedent’s will. Read and understand the instructions therein.
- File a petition with the court to admit the will to probate.
- Gather all the decedent’s assets.
- If applicable, take possession of the decedent’s safe deposit box and contents.
- Locate all accounts of the deceased by consulting with banks and savings & loans in the area.
- Check for cash and valuables hidden around the home.
- Transfer all securities to the name of the executor and continue collecting dividends and interests on behalf of heirs.
- Take an inventory of all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases, and tax information.
- Arrange for immediate management of any rental properties.
- Collect any money owed to the decedent.
- Inventory and protect all household and personal effects.
- Collect life insurance proceeds that are payable to the estate.
- Safeguard all business interests and properties.
- Arrange for appraisal of assets and sale of assets if appropriate.
- Pay valid claims against the estate. Reject invalid claims and defend the estate if necessary.
- Pay any taxes that may be owed.
- File income tax return for decedent and estate.
- File federal estate tax returns and state death/inheritance tax returns.
- Prepare the statement of receipts and disbursements. Pay attorney’s and executor’s fees.
Is the Personal Representative Entitled to Compensation?
As you can see, the duties of a personal representative can be considerable. Therefore, Texas law entitles a personal representative to 5% of all the amounts that they actually receive or payout in cash, not to exceed 5% of the estate’s gross value. The calculation does not include the cash that is paid out to heirs or receiving funds that were on hand or stored in a financial institution at the time of the decedent’s death. Also excluded in this calculation are assets with named beneficiaries, such as IRAs.
If the personal representative is involved in managing a business during probate, or if the usual calculations would generate a particularly low fee, the court may allow additional compensation.
Contact a Dallas Estate Planning Attorney Today
Considering the importance of the personal representative’s role, it is important that you have the guidance of someone who has substantial experience with estate matters when appointing an executor or when embarking on the duties of an administrator.
The seasoned Texas estate planning attorneys at Staubus and Randall have the knowledge and skill necessary to help you through the process. We will ensure your best interests and those of your loved ones are protected every step of the way.
If you would like more information about how Staubus and Randall can help you with your estate planning matters, call us today at 214-691-3411 to schedule a consultation. We look forward to putting our experience to work for you.