Duties and Powers of Legal Representatives
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One of the requirements for granting letters testamentary or of administration is contained in Section 473.017 RSMO. That Statute provides that if the letters are issued the applicant will make a perfect inventory of the estate, pay the debts and legacies, if any, and account for and distribute or pay all assets which come into the possession of the personal representative or administrator, and perform all things required by law during the administration of the estate.

The Statute imposes a duty on the person administering the estate to inventory all the assets of the deceased. Obtaining and assembling the information required to complete the inventory can be very difficult and time consuming.

Appraisers may need to be hired who are qualified and disinterested in the estate to assist in ascertaining the fair market value as of the date of death for any asset for which the value is not easily determined or “subject to reasonable doubt.”. Typically, an appraiser will be used is the estate includes real estate owned by the decedent. Additionally, real estate appraisers are typically retained to obtain the value of a leasehold interest. Other types of assets that are subject to reasonable doubt and which might require hiring an appraiser could include jewelry, art collections, stamp collections, coin collections, button collections or antiques. Each case is fact specific and the personal representative or administrator will need to review the assets of the estate and determine if the services of an appraiser are necessary in order to file the inventory.

There are other steps which might have to be taken in order to comply with the fiduciary duty requirements. These can include obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number on behalf of the estate, filing income tax returns for both the decreased and the probate estate, filing an estate tax return, sometimes referred to as the death or inheritance tax, changing locks on any real estate and making sure property is properly insured and maintained during the administration process.

Some other powers and duties involved in administering a probate estate are set forth in Section 473.810 RSMO. Some of these other powers include making repairs to buildings or property, voting stocks, paying taxes other than income and estate taxes, paying assessments and other expenses incident to the administration of the estate, prosecuting or defending claims against the estate, selling, mortgaging or leasing any real or personal property of the estate, satisfying and settling claims, and distributing the assets of the estate.

If there are claims against the decedent’s estate, these claims will have to be filed in the probate estate. There is a time limit set forth by Section 473.360 RSMO which governs when most claims must be filed against the estate of the decedent. Section 473.360.1 RSMO provides in part that all claims against the estate of a deceased person, other than costs and expenses of administration, and certain other claims, must be filed probate division of the circuit court within six months after the date of the first published notice of letters testamentary or of administration or else they are forever barred. This time period can be shorted to two months if notice was actually mailed to, or served upon such creditor.

If claims have been filed against the estate, the personal representative or administrator will have to determine how much should be paid to the creditor. Sometimes the attorney for the personal representative will schedule a hearing on the claim in order to determine the amount that should be paid on the claim.

Each estate is unique and the actions which might have to be taken by the personal representative in one estate might not have to be taken in another estate.

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