In Utah, a personal representative has a duty to administer the decedent's estate and distribute it to the decedent's lawful heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with Utah probate law and with the decedent's Will (if a valid Will exists). The personal representative should act as quickly and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate and must use his or her authority for the best interests of the decedent's heirs and beneficiaries.
The personal representative has many additional duties, including the following.
Take possession, manage, and preserve the decedent's property. The personal representative has a duty to:
• Take possession of the decedent's property, unless the decedent's Will provides otherwise. The personal representative may, however, leave the decedent's real property or tangible personal property with a person who is presumed to be entitled to the property until the personal representative needs possession of the property to administer the decedent's estate.
• Manage, protect, and preserve, and pay taxes on, the estate in the personal representative's possession.
Prepare an inventory of the decedent's property. The personal representative has a duty to:
• Prepare, within three months after being appointed, an inventory of property owned by the decedent at the time of death. Each item of property listed on the inventory should be described in reasonable detail. For each item, the inventory should also indicate (1) its fair market value on the date of the decedent's death and (2) the type and amount of any mortgage, lien, or other encumbrance, if any, against that item. If an item was appraised, the inventory should indicate the name and address of the appraiser.
• Send a copy of the inventory to each interested person who requests it. Also, the personal representative may file the inventory with the court.
• Prepare a supplemental inventory that (1) lists any property not included in the original inventory that comes to the personal representative's knowledge, (2) shows the correct description and fair market value of any property listed in the original inventory which the personal representative has since learned was incorrectly described or valued, and (3) indicates appraisers or other data relied upon.
• Furnish a copy of any supplemental inventory to persons interested in the new information. Also, if the original inventory was filed with the court, the supplemental inventory should also be filed with the court.
Publish a notice to creditors. The personal representative has a duty to publish a "notice to creditors" in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the probate is filed. The notice should be published once a week for three successive weeks. The notice should (1) announce the personal representative's appointment and address and (2) state that creditors of the estate should present their claims within three months after the date of the first publication of the notice or be forever barred.
Pay creditors' claims and applicable taxes. With respect to claims filed by creditors, the personal representative has a duty to:
• Provide for homestead, family, and support allowances before paying creditors' claims.
• Decide which creditors' claims to allow or disallow.
• Pay allowed creditors' claims in
(1) reasonable funeral expenses;
(2) costs and expenses of administering the estate;
(3) debts and taxes with preference under federal law;
(4) reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last illness of the decedent, including compensation of persons attending him;
(5) debts and taxes with preference under other Utah law; and
(6) all other claims.
The personal representative also has the duty to file any applicable tax returns and pay any applicable taxes Applicable tax returns will include the decedent's final federal and state income tax returns and may also include, depending on the circumstances, federal and state income tax returns for the decedent's estate, federal and state gift tax returns, or federal and state estate tax returns.
A personal representative in Utah has many powers, some of which appear in Utah Code section 75-3-714 and some of which are listed below. Among his or her powers, the personal representative may:
• Employ a qualified, disinterested appraiser to ascertain the fair market value of an asset of the decedent if the value is unclear.
• Receive reasonable compensation for services to the estate.
• Petition the court for an order (1) that determines, if the decedent left a Will, the validity of the Will and the beneficiaries under the Will, or that determines, if the decedent did not leave a valid Will, the decedent's lawful heirs, (2) that approves a final account by the personal representative of the estate's property and finances, (3) that determines a final distribution of the estate.
• Petition the court, after the estate has been distributed, for an order approving the final distribution of the estate and discharging the personal representative from further liability.
• Informally close the estate, no earlier than four months after being appointed, by filing a sworn statement with the court that complies with Utah Code section 75-3-1003.
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