In Alaska, a personal representative (commonly referred to as an executor or administrator) of an estate is a fiduciary appointed by the Superior Court to manage the estate of a decedent. AK ST § 13.06.015. As a fiduciary, a personal representative must perform their duties in a careful and honest manner while adhering to the directions outlined in the decedent’s will, if any, and the requirements of Alaska law. The process of estate administration starts off with filing a petition with the Superior Court that has jurisdiction over the estate.
Appointment of a Personal Representative
If the decedent left a will, the decedent may have stated their preference for who should serve as their executor. As long as the person named is willing to serve, able to serve, and qualified to serve, the court will likely grant their petition and appoint them as the personal representative.
If the person named in the will is not will, able, or qualified to serve, of if the decedent did not leave a will, then under Alaska law, an suitable person who is at least 19 years old or any organization, may serve as personal representative. However, there is an order of priority for whom the court will appoint as follows:
- The spouse of the person who died if the will makes a gift to them.
- Any person who receives a gift under the will.
- The spouse of the person who died even if the will does not make a gift to them or if there is no will.
- Any heir of the decedent.
- Any creditor of the decedent if it has been at least 45 days since the person’s death.
AK ST § 13.06.065
Regardless of whether the person or organization was named in the will, anyone wishing to be appointed must file a petition with the court. Upon approval, the court will issue that person an order called letters testamentary or letters of administration. In addition, unless the requirement is waived, the personal representative will have to post a bond. AK ST § 13.06.255
Duties of a Personal Representative
There are two main goals of estate administration: to pay the decedent’s debts and to distribute estate assets. The personal representative’s duties are all geared toward meeting those goals and ultimately closing the decedent’s estate. The first thing that the personal must do, even before they are formally appointed is open the decedent’s estate by filing a petition for probate with the appropriate Alaska Superior Court, along with the death certificate and will, if any. Once they have been formally appointed, they must complete the following tasks:
Identify Assets of the Estate. The personal representative must identify the assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate. This may include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and personal property. The property must be appraised so that the personal representative knows its value as of the date of the decedent’s death. The personal representative is to use this information to create an inventory that is sent to interested parties and may be filed with the court. AK ST § 13.16.365.
Notify Creditors and Pay Debts. As part of their effort to pay estate debt, the personal representative must give legal notice of the decedent’s death to creditors. Creditors generally have four months after notice to file claims against the decedent’s estate. AK ST § 13.16.450. After the four months claims period ends, creditors are forever barred from seeking payment of debt. The personal representative will then pay valid claims from estate assets.
Preparation and Filing of Tax Returns. The personal representative is responsible for preparing and filing all applicable state and federal tax returns on behalf of the decedent and on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Distribution of Assets. Once all of the claims have been paid or otherwise disposed of and assets have been allocated to pay expenses of administration, the personal representative must distribute any remain assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries of heirs.
Compensation of Personal Representatives in Alaska
In Alaska, a personal representative is entitled to reasonable compensation for their work. The amount of compensation is determined by hours worked as well as the complexity of the work.