A personal representative is the individual appointed by the court to handle all aspects of estate administration or probate. In Alaska, the Superior Court serves as the probate court and has jurisdiction over estate matters. AK ST § 13.06.050(8). The personal representative has numerous different responsibilities and has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries tied to the estate. All of these tasks must be completed appropriately and documented so that anyone who has questions about the administration of the estate does not challenge the actions taken by the personal representative. Note there executor and administrator or other terms for personal representative. If the personal representative was nominated in the decedent’s will, they are often referred to as the executor. Otherwise, they are called the administrator.
Responsibilities of the Personal Representative
An Alaska personal representative is responsible for:
- Gathering all property that was owned by the deceased at the time they passed away.
- Notifying creditors that the person has passed away.
- Handling debts and taxes associated with the individual’s final affairs or the estate itself.
- Closing out any final business affairs of the deceased.
- Transferring property that was owned by the person who passed away to the right parties.
- Filing any documents required with the federal or state government.
- Keeping up with any documentations or filings required by the local court.
- Closing out probate and submitting a final accounting when complete.
While the personal representative is responsible for handling these different tasks without the approval of a court, they are answerable to the court and must keep the court informed of their progress by filing all required documents.
This is also so that if an interested party, such as a beneficiary to the estate, claims that the personal representative is not doing their job these concerns can be brought to court. If the court determines that the personal representative is not performing their duties are required, the court can suspend their authority or remove them.
In addition to the standard duties that personal representatives are required to perform, they may also be required to handle extraordinary tasks such as estate litigation, complicated tax issues, or temporarily running the decedent’s small business.
Who Is Eligible to Serve as an Executor in Alaska?
If a decedent left a will nominating an executor, that person would be the person that the court appoints as long as they are qualified and as long as they choose to accept the position. If the person nominated in the will is not eligible, declines the position, or is not able to serve, or if the decedent did not leave a will, any suitable person who is aged 19 or above is eligible to serve as the personal representative. In addition, organizations can also serve as a personal representative for an individual’s Alaska estate. This can include trust companies or banks. If no personal representative is named in the will document of the associated party, personal representative rights apply in the following order.
- The spouse of the person who died if the will makes a gift to that party.
- Any party who receives a gift through the will.
- The spouse of the person who died even if there is no will or the will does not expressly give a gift to them.
- Any heir of the person who died.
- Any creditor of the person who died if it has been more than 45 days since the person’s death.
Whether the personal representative is the person named in the will or not, before they have the authority to manage the estate, they must first petition the court and the court must approve the petition. If the court approves the petition, it will issue them a document called letters that serves as proof of their legal authority as personal representative.