As a personal representative, administrator or executor of a decedent’s estate, you are personally liable for making sure you pay all of the decedent’s known creditors with legitimate claims. You are also required to publish a “Notice to Creditors” allowing creditors to file claims against the estate. You must pay the decedent’s debts giving priority status to secured creditors or those who can make claims against the decedent’s personal or real property as collateral. Generally, you must publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper of general circulation. Creditors have 90 days to make sure they file their claims and after three months, their claims are time-barred.
Your duties as an executor or personal representative also require you to file federal and state estate tax forms. The Internal Revenue Service requires you to file an Estate Tax Return and pay estate taxes if the decedent’s total estate exceeds the annual limitation for estate taxes. Generally, you must file an estate tax return within nine months of the decedent’s death. Within 15 months, you must file a North Dakota Estate Tax Return and pay any associated state estate taxes.
Because you are personally liable for complying with a decedent’s testamentary directions and are liable for paying creditors, it is important that you retain a probate law attorney to help you understand your duties as a personal representative. As a personal representative or executor, choosing an attorney is within your legal discretion, although the decedent can state a preference for a specific attorney in his will. Typically, you are not required to follow the decedent’s recommended choice of attorney, and you may pick a different attorney if you so choose.