In California, a personal representative is either an executor named in a will or an administrator assigned by the court if there was no will or there was an invalid will. A person is not an official personal representative until approved and appointed by probate court.
The duty of a personal representative is to distribute the estate of a deceased person.
Take care of the funeral
In many cases, the responsibilities of the personal representative begin with the funeral. If they use personal funds to cover the funeral expenses before they have access to the funds of the estate, they must keep an accurate accounting of all expenses paid to present to the court in order to be repaid by the estate.
As they are responsible for making sure the estate is properly distributed, they must make detailed inventories of all assets of the estate, all money owed to the estate and all debts owed by the estate. Assets may include bank accounts, investments, property, real estate and life insurance. Money owed to the estate includes any personal loans, debts or bonds where there is documentation showing the amount owed and who owes it to the estate. Debts owed by the estate include credit cards, mortgages and car loans.
The personal representative must notify all creditors that the estate owes. In most cases, creditors will give a payoff amount they will accept. The personal representative is then responsible for paying the debt owed. They pay this out of the estate funds and must report the payment to probate court.
Prepare a final account
After paying all debts owed by the estate, and collecting all money owed to the estate, the personal representative will report a final accounting to probate court and file a petition to distribute the estate. Once approved, they will distribute all property in the estate as designated in the will.
People who cannot serve as a personal representative in California include people under the age of majority and people under a conservatorship or otherwise seen as unfit. Even if named in a will, probate court will not appoint an executor if they fit one of the prohibited designations.