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The Responsibilities of a Probate Personal Representative

The executor in a California probate case, known as a “personal representative”, plays a crucial role in administering the deceased person’s estate and ensuring that the estate’s assets are distributed correctly and in accordance with the law. As an Folsom probate lawyer, I have seen that personal representatives can sometimes be overwhelmed with their responsibilities, so it is important that they are familiar with what they are required to do. These responsibilities can vary depending on the complexity of the estate, but here are the primary duties and responsibilities of a personal representative in a California probate:

  1. Initiating Probate Proceedings:
    • File the necessary paperwork with the appropriate California probate court to open the probate case. The appropriate court is normally located in the county where the decedent resided when they passed away.
    • Notify interested parties, including heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors, about the probate proceedings.
  2. File a Bond:
    • In the event that the deceased passed away without a will, a bond will be required to ensure that the personal representative faithfully executes their responsibilities. In the Sacramento metropolitan area, there are numerous companies that issue personal representative bonds and the cost of the bond depends on the value of the estate being probated. 
    • If the deceased passed away with a will that specifically eliminates the statutory bond requirement, then a bond will likely not be required. 
  3. Inventory and Appraisal of Assets:
    • Create a comprehensive inventory of the deceased person’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and any other assets subject to probate.
    • Obtain appraisals or valuations for assets as required by California law.
  4. Notifying Creditors:
    • Provide notice to creditors so that they are aware of the probate proceedings. This includes notifying known creditors individually of the probate case.
  5. Handling Claims and Debts:
    • Review and validate creditor claims.
    • Pay legitimate debts and expenses of the estate, including funeral expenses, administrative costs, and valid creditor claims.
  6. Asset Management:
    • Safeguard and manage estate assets during the probate process, including maintaining bank accounts, investments, and real estate.
    • Ensure that assets are properly maintained and insured.
  7. Tax Filings:
    • File any necessary federal and state income tax returns for the deceased person, including the final individual income tax return.
    • File estate tax returns if the estate is subject to federal or state estate taxes. California does not have a separate state estate tax.
  8. Accounting and Reporting:
    • Maintain accurate records of all financial transactions related to the estate.
    • Prepare and provide an accounting as required by California law.
  9. Distribution of Assets:
    • Distribute the remaining assets of the estate to beneficiaries as directed by the will or, if there is no will, in accordance with California’s intestate succession laws.
    • Obtain court approval for the final distribution.
  10. Closing the Estate:
    • File the necessary paperwork with the court to close the probate case.
    • Obtain court approval for the final accounting and distribution of assets.
    • Ensure that all outstanding matters, including creditor claims and tax obligations, are resolved.
  11. Communication with Beneficiaries and Heirs:
    • Keep beneficiaries and heirs informed about the progress of the probate process.
    • Address their questions and concerns as needed.
  12. Legal Compliance:
    • Ensure that all actions and decisions are in compliance with California probate laws and regulations.
    • Act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.
  13. Record-Keeping and Documentation:
    • Maintain accurate and organized records of all estate-related documents and transactions.


It is important to note that serving as a personal representative in a California probate case can be a complex and time-consuming responsibility. Personal representatives are often required to work closely with legal and financial professionals to ensure the proper administration of the estate. Additionally, they may need to obtain court approval for certain actions, particularly in larger or more complex estates. Consulting with a Folsom lawyer experienced in probate can be invaluable in fulfilling these responsibilities and navigating the probate process effectively. If you have any questions related to probate, please contact us. 

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