A will is meant to give instructions on how to distribute an estate, but someone must be in charge of carrying out those instructions. This is a big part of the process known as estate administration. The individual responsible for doing administering the estate is referred to as the personal representative. This person is often a relative or friend, and is appointed to the position by the terms of the will. If there is no will, or if the person appointed in the will is unavailable, the court will appoint a personal representative.
In order to complete the estate administration, personal representatives must first gather all assets of the estate and determine any debts that the estate owes. Then, once everything is gathered, the personal representative can then make sure that the beneficiaries receive what they were given in the will.
However, estate administration isn’t just gathering belongings and putting checks in the mail. Sometimes, some assets are not immediately in the estate’s possession. Sometimes, other people may make claim to certain assets or claim they are owed money. Also, determining who has title to land can be difficult in some situations. What’s more, estate administrators must pay off any remaining debts of the estate, and collect any debts that are still owed to the estate.
With all this in mind, estate administrators must have the authority initiate or answer to lawsuits on behalf of the estate to recovery property or for title or possession of land.
For this and other reasons, it can be important for personal representatives to work with a lawyer who has experience in estate administration.