What are the duties of a personal representative in California probate?
A personal representative has many duties in a California probate. A personal representative is a fiduciary tasked with administering the estate and must administer the estate using ordinary care and diligence. Here are the top 10 duties of a personal representative in California probate:
- Take possession of the decedent’s property to be administered. Pursuant to section 9650 of the California Probate Code, the personal representative shall take possession of the property to be administered. The personal representative may leave real property or tangible personal property with the person presumptively entitled to it.
- Prepare an inventory of the estate assets. A personal representative must prepare an inventory of all of the assets to be administered in the estate. The inventory shall particularly specify the following property: (1)Money owed to the decedent, including debts, bonds, and notes, with the name of each debtor, the date, the sum originally payable, and the endorsements, if any, with their dates. The inventory shall also specify security for the payment of money to the decedent, including mortgages and deeds of trust. If security for the payment of money is real property, the inventory shall include the recording reference or, if not recorded, a legal description of the real property; (2) A statement of the interest of the decedent in a partnership, appraised as a single item; (3) All money and other cash items, as defined in Section 8901, of the decedent. The inventory shall show, to the extent ascertainable by the personal representative, the portions of the property that are community, quasi-community, and separate property of the decedent. Cal Prob Code § 8850.
- Keep cash invested. A personal representative has a duty to keep all cash in his or her possession invested in interest-bearing accounts or other investments authorized by law. This requirement does not include the amount of case reasonably necessary for orderly administration of the estate. This requirement does not apply if the testator’s will otherwise provides. Cal Prob Code § 96524.
- Keep estate assets separate from personal accounts. A personal representative has a duty to keep clear and distinct records. The personal representative cannot commingle the personal representative’s personal assets with the assets of the estate. To do so is a breach of the personal representative’s fiduciary duties and could expose the personal representative to personal liability.
- Appraise the property of the Decedent. A California personal representative has a duty to appraise certain property of the Decedent. This property includes: money and other cash items; certain checks; accounts in financial institutions; cash deposits and money market mutual funds; and proceeds of life and accident insurance policies and retirement plans and annuities payable on death in lump sum amounts. Cal Prob Code § 89016.
- Provide Notice to Decedent’s creditors. The personal representative has a duty to give notice to creditors. Notice of administration of the estate must be sent to the known or reasonably ascertainable creditors of the decedent. A personal representative has knowledge of a creditor of the decedent if the personal representative is aware that the creditor has demanded payment from the decedent or the estate. Cal Prob Code § 9050.7.
- Duty to pay debts pursuant to court order. The personal representative shall pay a debt to the extent of the order for payment of the debt. A California personal representative is liable personally and on the bond, if any, for failure to make the payment. Cal Prob Code § 11424.8.
- Duty to recover transferred property voidable to creditors. Under certain circumstances a personal representative is required to begin and prosecute an action to recover property of the decedent for the benefit of creditors. Such an action is only required if there are insufficient assets to pay creditors, the creditor applies for such action, and if the decedent took certain actions with respect to the property during decedent’s lifetime. These actions include making a voidable conveyance of the property, making a gift of the property in view of impending death, and making a direction to transfer a vehicle on decedent’s death and the property has been transferred as directed. Cal Prob Code § 9653.9.
- Prepare a final accounting. When the estate is ready to be closed, the personal representative shall file a final account and petition for an order for final distribution of the estate. Cal Prob Code § 1095110.
- Distribute the property of the estate. The personal representative is responsible for distribution of the property in the estate in compliance with the terms of the court order for distribution. Cal Prob Code § 11750
A California personal representative is an officer of the court. A personal representative must take his duties seriously and administer the estate in the best interests of the beneficiaries.