What Information Should The Personal Representative Give Estate Beneficiaries

What Information Should a Personal Representative Provide to Estate Beneficiaries?

Frustrated heirs will often contact me, frustrated at the lack of information they have received in a probate estate.  Unfortunately, estate heirs and devisees don't always know what documents they should receive. This blog will identify what documents the Personal Representative (PR) has to share in a probate estate. 

1. Initial Probate Documents

First, when a person files a probate case, he or she must send all "interested individuals" copies of the  probate documents filed with the Court. An "interested individual" is a deceased person's heir, or, is named in a will as a devisee. 

The interested person must receive a copy of the Application for Probate.  Furthermore, the PR must send a copy of a will if there is one and a Notice of Intention to Seek Appointment of Personal Representative.

If a person files a Petition to open an estate, the Petitioner has to send each interested individual a notice of hearing advising of the court date.

These documents contain important information about the type of estate being filed.  Similarly, the interested person can  see who is the proposed PR of the estate.  Accordingly, the interested individual has the opportunity to object to the admission of the will, or will substitute.  Likewise, the interested individual can also object to the appointment of the proposed PR.

2. Notice of Appointment

Once the Estate is open, the PR has 28 days to give a Notice of Appointment to the heirs and devisees of the estate.  If the PR has retained legal counsel to assist with the administration of the estate, the PR must provide a notice of attorney fees and a copy of the retainer agreement.  These notices give the beneficiary the right to object to the attorney fees, if desired.

3. Inventory  

The PR is required to provide the heirs and devisees with a copy of an Inventory within 91 days of the appointment.  An Inventory lists the assets of the estate and the value of the assets. 

Sometimes, it is difficult for the PR to locate all of the assets within 91 days .  Accordingly, the PR should provide an Inventory of the assets that can be located and valued.  Then, the PR can then send the heirs and devisees an Amended Inventory once the additional assets have been located.

In some cases, the Inventory may list a single asset with no value.  An example might be a potential lawsuit. In this case, the PR may not be able to determine the value of the asset for months or years.  Once the lawsuit is resolved by settlement or trial, the PR will send out an amended Inventory 

4. Petitions To The Court

From time to time, the PR may have to Petition the Probate Court for approval of certain actions taken in the administration of the Estate. For example, some counties, including Wayne County, require approval for the sale of real property in an estate.  If this happens, the PR must send a copy of the Petition and Notice of Hearing to the heirs and devisees of the estate.

5. Accounting

The PR is required to provide an annual account of the income and expenses of the estate.  Additionally, when the estate is ready to close, the PR must send a final account regarding the estate.

6. Proposed Distribution

When the PR has paid all of the taxes, claims and expenses of the estate, he or she should send a copy of a proposed distribution of the remaining assets of the estate.  The PR may send this document with the final account of estate.  Heirs and devisees have an opportunity to object to the proposed distribution, if appropriate.

7. Closing Documents

If the estate is informal, the PR will send a copy of a sworn statement to close estate.  If the estate is formal, in other words, opened by a Petition and court hearing, the PR will have to provide the Petition For Complete Estate Settlement and Notice of Hearing.

Lack of information from the PR is a frequent cause of estate litigation.  An heir or devisee must have sufficient information to agree to decisions made by the PR such as the sale of a house in the estate or a proposed distribution.   Moreover, with the above information, the heir or devisee can also determine if the PR is administering the estate properly.  Don't be afraid to ask the PR to provide the missing information.  Alternatively, you may want to consult with a probate attorney to determine if you should take further action to remove the PR if he or she continues to withhold information about the estate.

 

 

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