One of your loved ones may have chosen you to be their “personal representative,” which means that your responsibilities will go into effect after the person has passed on. That is a much better scenario all around than if the person passed away without a valid will or without naming a personal representative (also known as an executor or co-executor).
Once the person has passed away, you will eventually have the authority to administer their estate as the personal representative. However, you will not be allowed to do anything before you take an oath of office. With that oath, you will have to swear (or promise) that you will perform your duties by the book (from a legal perspective). To prove that you were chosen as the personal representative of the person’s estate, you were either given Letters Testamentary, Letters of Administration with Will Annexed, or Letters of Administration.
What are my responsibilities?
Once you have taken the oath of office, it is your responsibility to perform all of the duties of the estate. The possible downside to this is that, under certain circumstances, you may be held responsible if you fail to perform a specific duty and there is a negative consequence as a result. Because of how complicated your responsibilities as personal representative may become, it is probably a good idea to hire an attorney to provide you with legal assistance.
Additionally, as personal representative, it is wise to understand the responsibilities of the probate court that appointed you to the position. It is important to understand that the judge and staff of the court are not allowed to provide you with any sort of legal counsel. You should carry out your responsibilities to the best of your ability and hopefully there will be no hiccups.
You don’t need to have any kind of professional training to act as a personal representative, but it can be a demanding role. Many personal representatives work with attorneys who can help them to be successful in the role.