Probate and Estate Administration Checklist

Have you been nominated as a Personal Representative? Generally, a Personal Representative handles the affairs of a deceased person and brings the deceased person’s estate through the probate process. The probate process involves administration of the deceased person’s assets, payment of the deceased person’s expenses using the assets, and distribution of the assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. It can be a daunting task, so here's a list of the Personal Representative’s general duties so that you know what to expect:

  • Send Notices – After being appointed by the court, the Personal Representative must send notices to all of the heirs of the estate notifying them of his or her appointment.

  • Prepare an Inventory – This is one of the biggest tasks of the Personal Representative. It involves making a detailed list of all assets that belonged to the deceased person. Only “probate” assets will need to go on this list. Generally that means all assets that were owned in the deceased person’s name. Other assets, such as assets owned with another person as joint tenants with right of survivorship, payable on death accounts, trust accounts, life insurance, and annuities or retirement accounts with a named beneficiary are not included in this list.

  • Open an Estate Bank Account – It’s important to keep good financial records when you are acting as a Personal Representative. The best way to do this is to open a separate bank account in the name and tax identification number (EIN or TIN) of the estate. The EIN can be obtained directly from the IRS.

  • Making payments – The Personal Representative is responsible for paying any allowances, expenses, taxes, claims, and debts of the estate, and any estate administration costs out of estate funds. Estate administration costs may include Personal Representative fees, court filing fees, legal and accounting fees, costs of maintenance of estate property, and funeral expenses.

  • Record Keeping – It’s important that the Personal Representative keeps good records of income and expenses of the estate, both for estate accounting purposes and tax purposes. The Personal Representative has a responsibility to provide this information to the beneficiaries of the estate if requested.

  • Filing Discharge of Estate Tax Lien – The State of Maine places an automatic lien on property that was owned by a deceased person on the date of his or her death. The reason for this is to prevent the property from being sold before any estate taxes are paid. Even when no estate tax is due, the lien will be placed and must be removed by filing a form with Maine Revenue Service.

  • Distributing Assets – After the estate has been accounted for and all debts are settled, the Personal Representative will be responsible for distributing the estate assets to the beneficiaries of the estate. If there was no will, or there are assets that are not listed in the will, those assets will be distributed according to Maine intestacy laws.

  • Closing the Estate – After all of the assets of the estate are distributed, the Personal Representative can close the estate. Depending on the complexity of the estate, this may be done informally by a sworn statement, or by a formal proceeding in the Probate Court.