When we die, someone has to bring our affairs to closure. This is true whether we have left a will, a trust, or, die without a plan. The name for this role differs depending on location and circumstance. Here for example, attorneys explain that in some states, like Arizona, a personal representative is responsible for wrapping up our affairs.
Following The Probate Process
Whether or not there is a will, probate proceedings in each state serve as the official, public process for bringing the affairs of a decedent to closure. Of course someone must take responsibility for seeing the probate process through, and as Woods Law Group explains:
States differ in whether they use the term executor or personal representative. In Arizona, we use the term personal representative rather than executor. A personal representative is the person who has been assigned in the will, or appointed by the court, to carry out the provisions of a decedent’s will. This person is often a spouse or child of the decedent, although the testator is free to select some other trusted individual such as a close friend or trusted advisor…As it is common for a child or spouse to be the personal representative of an estate, it is also common for a personal representative to also be a beneficiary of the estate.
Serving as a personal representative is far from an honorary role. Like an executor or trustee, a personal representative has a fiduciary obligation to protect the interests of the estate and it’s beneficiaries. Attorneys offer this overview of the duties of a personal representative:
A personal representative takes on a fiduciary role to carry out the provisions of the testator’s will including processing the will through probate. In the beginning stages of probate, the personal representative may be required to notify interested persons, such as beneficiaries and creditors that they have been appointed as the personal representative of the estate. The personal representative will also prepare an inventory of the assets, and any liabilities or liens against those assets…The assets in the estate must be protected and taken possession of by the personal representative….The personal representative may exercise authority to both receive and distribute assets, pay creditors, fulfill contractual obligations of the decedent, and make necessary repairs to property. The personal representative must ensure that these activities are exercised reasonably and for the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries or he or she could be held personally liable for failing to fulfill these duties.
Given the significant fiduciary duties of personal representatives, courts often require a bond, such as a personal representative bond, to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law. Essentially, a personal representative bond guarantees the faithful performance of the appointed representative.
As a leading national fiduciary bond provider, Colonial Surety Company helps personal representatives in every state quickly and affordably obtain their bonds. Uniquely, Colonial offers direct, instant and digital personal representative bonds.
The steps to obtaining a personal representative bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even from your phone while in probate court.
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Good To Know: Intestate
Every state has a probate process: legal steps through which property is transferred from the dead to the living. If there is a will, it is admitted to probate court to initiate the process. If there is not a will, the state appoints a representative and follows the laws of intestacy. As Phelps LaClair explains:
When you die without a will or “die intestate,” then the state actually distributes your assets according to the laws of intestate succession. In Arizona, the order of inheritance is as follows:
- Spouse (if your children belong to your spouse)
- Children (if you don’t have a surviving spouse)
- Spouse and children (if your children don’t belong to your spouse)
- Parents (if you don’t have surviving spouse or children)
- Siblings (if you don’t have surviving spouse, children, or parents)
Never assume…that your spouse automatically inherits everything. Arizona is a community property state, which means your surviving spouse is only entitled to half of your shared property. If you don’t have a will, the other half will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession.If you want your spouse to inherit everything, then you need to explain your wishes in a will or trust.
Here To Help: Bonds for Fiduciaries Simplified
The terms administrator, personal representative and executor are frequently interchanged, with preferences determined by state. No matter the nomenclature, Colonial Surety helps fiduciaries in every state, including administrators, personal representatives and executors, quickly and easily secure needed bonds. Colonial’s I-Bond® service makes a wide portfolio of bonds instantly, digitally and directly available to customers.
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Across the country, lawyers find that partnering with Colonial Surety speeds up the process whenever courts require fiduciary bonds or court bonds.
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