22 August 2023

The Role And Responsibilities Of A Personal Representative

A personal representative is the person or persons appointed to deal with a deceased’s estate, whether that be an appointment by way of a will or an appointment by operation of law, under the rules of intestacy.

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A personal representative is the person or persons appointed to deal with a deceased’s estate, whether that be an appointment by way of a will or an appointment by operation of law, under the rules of intestacy.

The personal representative is tasked with administering a deceased person’s estate as per their last will and testament, or as per the rules of intestacy.

As part of their responsibilities, they must ensure that they preserve the assets in the estate, so that they can realise the best possible value if and when the asset(s) are sold. Depending on whether the will allows someone to occupy a property whilst holding the property on trust for the benefit of others, this obligation may be a long, drawn out one, often for the lifetime of the person granted the right to occupy the property. The personal representative would still need to try and obtain the best possible value for the property on the open market when the occupier passes away.

What statutory powers does a personal representative have?

Personal representatives have a number of statutory powers implied in all cases, whether a will exists or not. Where a will does exist however, some implied powers may be expressly disapplied if unworkable in the grand scheme of things. The testator would need to envisage difficulties within circumstances specific to them, in order to ascertain which powers are not to apply.

Many of these powers are standard and applicable in almost all cases. A body of private client practitioners have formed together to discuss and share ideas, and also to create provisions that apply, for the most part, to the majority of people’s estates, known as the provisions of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

What must a personal representative do?

Once the Grant of Representation is received (as either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration, with or without Will Annexed) the personal representative must:

  • Take all reasonable steps to collect in the deceased’s assets, or monies owed to the deceased.
  • Pay the deceased’s funeral and testamentary expenses, as well as any debts and tax.
  • Distribute the legacies, if any, and finally distribute the residue of the deceased’s estate (residue is everything remaining after the above).

Understanding your liability

As mentioned above, personal representatives are personally liable for losses suffered by the deceased’s estate as a result of breach of their duty. Sometimes the deceased may have drawn up a will that attempts to limit this liability.  A person acting as personal representative is not responsible however for any breach of duty by a joint personal representative, unless they failed to prevent a breach of duty when they should have reasonably known of the existence of the breach.

Should a personal representative engage a professional to assist in their role as personal representative, and so long as they can show that they employed the professional in good faith, having exercised care in their selection of the professional as agent, they are not liable for the acts of the agent.

Can I decline the role of personal representative?

If you have been appointed as a personal representative, it is possible to decline the appointment, if you do not wish to act and undertake these responsibilities.

Such a person can choose to ‘renounce’ or in other words, resign from their appointment, so long as they have not begun the process of contacting financial institutions etc, referred to as intermeddling.

They can also choose to have ‘power reserved’ to them, meaning they are happy for one of the other persons so appointed to deal with the estate, with a power to apply at a later date if so required.

The personal representative can also choose instead to have someone act on their behalf in their capacity as personal representative, by appointing an attorney. Such a power of attorney will be limited however to a maximum period of one year. The attorney can act as if they are standing in the personal representative’s shoes, therefore the personal representative should be aware that by delegating the role to an attorney, they remain personally liable for the acts committed or omitted by them.

With that being said, if you have been appointed to act as personal representative in the administration of a deceased person’s estate and require assistance, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us and we will make an appointment with you to ascertain how we can best help.

Help and advice on your role as personal representative

If you prefer, Kew Law is able to act on your behalf as a personal representative when it comes to administering an estate of a deceased person.

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0800 987 8156