Once you pass away, your personal representative as it’s known in Massachusetts (also called an executor in New Hampshire), has the responsibility to initiate the probate proceeding of your will and fulfill the wishes that you expressed. Your executor will have a fiduciary duty to your estate, which means they will be held liable if they misuse your assets for their own benefit. The personal representative’s main duties include:

Personal Representative
  • Keeping your assets safe
  • Contacting the beneficiaries of your will and ensuring proper property distribution
  • Filing the will in the appropriate probate court
  • Canceling your credit cards and social security benefits
  • Paying your debts, insurance and final estate and income taxes
  • Creating a bank account for your estate

This person does not need to be a lawyer to carry out these duties and most people appoint a family member. While I do not recommend this, you can also assign two people to be your personal representative if you do not want one person to carry the burden alone.

Personal Representative’s Commissions

While Massachusetts and New Hampshire do not set out definitive rules on what a personal representative gets paid for their services, both states decree that personal representatives are entitled to reasonable compensation. These fees must be approved by the court. 

How is this done? The personal representative simply submits an invoice to the court, citing an amount that he/she believes is fair. The court will require a detailed record of their time spent working on the estate. They cannot submit that they worked for three hours on May 6th. They must explain to the court what he/she did during those three hours. 

Furthermore, the personal representative can request his own hourly rate, and it can vary depending on the nature of each specific task. For example, they would most likely charge more for preparing a tax return than for writing a check for an insurance premium from the estate account. To reiterate, it is up to the court to determine if that charge is reasonable. 

Personal Representative

What if My Personal Representative Fails in their Duties?

The probate court can remove the personal representative from their duties if they take inappropriate actions on behalf of the estate. Afterward, your loved ones could file a lawsuit with the civil court to get any money that was unfairly gained by the personal representative. It is your family’s right to hold him liable for breaching his/her fiduciary duty.

While you do not need to be an attorney to serve as a personal representative, you should always consult an attorney when issues arise in which you are not comfortable handling. If consulted for a proper purpose, and with court approval, attorneys’ fees are payable out of the estate. 

For further information

For further assistance on what your duties are or will be as an executor/personal representative, please contact our office at (978) 269-4485 or email me at: jebacher@teric7.sg-host.com and we will be happy to help.