Does a Personal Representative Have Any Responsibility for Paying Off Estate Debts?

Does a Personal Representative Have Any Responsibility for Paying Off Estate Debts?

One common question people often have when named personal representative of an estate is whether they have to worry about being personally responsible for any debts left behind with the estate they’re tasked with administering. The good news is no—personal representatives do not have to worry about paying any type of estate debt from their own finances.

However, they can be held financially responsible for any mistakes they make in the process of administering the estate. This is why it is so important for people establishing estate plans to choose a personal representative whom they believe they can trust to be organized and follow all of the procedures established by state law.

Personal representatives’ tasks

Part of the personal representative’s job is making an inventory of all assets and debts left behind by the decedent. Any assets that do exist must be used to pay creditors for those outstanding debts before the remainder can be distributed among heirs and beneficiaries. The order in which creditors get paid is determined by state law.

The only circumstance in which personal representatives will need to use their own money to pay off creditors is if they had been a cosigner on a loan or a joint account holder on credit cards.

However, if the representative ignores or otherwise fails to follow state procedure for paying off debts or distributing assets, that representative could then be held personally liable for those mistakes and decisions. The estate would need to correct the payments, and the personal representative would likely face surcharges for the mistakes.

For more information about the responsibilities of personal representatives, contact an experienced Tampa, FL estate planning attorney at BaumannKangas Estate Law.