Losing a loved one is a challenging and emotionally difficult time. When combined with external pressures, it can quickly become overwhelming. Executors or administrators of an estate have a crucial responsibility to minimize stress during the probate process in New Mexico.
The primary duties of a personal representative, also known as an executor (if male) or an executrix (if female), are similar to those of a trustee. They are responsible for safeguarding the assets and interests of the beneficiaries. To ensure a smooth probate process, it is important to be well-prepared and organized for court proceedings.
Here are some important reminders about the New Mexico probate process and how representatives can provide assistance.
Once approved by the court, a personal representative must prepare and file an inventory and a list of claims within a specific timeframe set by statute. The inventory should provide a detailed account of all assets subject to probate, excluding assets that pass outside of probate through other means. It is necessary to determine the value of the assets, and in some cases, obtain an appraisal. The list of claims includes debts owed to the estate, not debts the estate owes to others. By filing the inventory on time, beneficiaries and creditors gain insight into the estate’s assets and claims. Beneficiaries want to know what they might inherit, while creditors need to assess if there are sufficient funds to cover debts. Failing to file the inventory on time can result in fines and removal of the representative, causing delays and potential disputes.
It is important for beneficiaries to understand that although the will may be read shortly after the funeral, the distribution of gifts and bequests does not happen immediately. While you may be entitled to the assets, the inheritance is subject to the estate’s administration. The representative must settle the decedent’s debts and claims before distributing the assets. Therefore, beneficiaries should refrain from prematurely taking possessions or making assumptions. Typically, the representative ensures that everything remains in place until probate is finalized.
Additionally, the representative must diligently settle all the decedent’s debts. This involves providing proper notices to creditors, including publishing in the appropriate newspaper and sending written notices to known secured creditors via certified mail. Some representatives mistakenly believe that all debts must be paid immediately, which is not always necessary. Some states offer “permissive notice” to unsecured creditors, which may prevent payment of certain unsecured claims.
The representative must keep beneficiaries informed by sending certified mail notices about the admission of the will to probate and providing a copy of the will. Furthermore, the representative must communicate any relevant information that could impact the beneficiaries’ rights. Beneficiaries have the right to request a formal accounting from the independent executor.
Taking care of estate property is another crucial responsibility of the representative. They must treat the assets with even greater care than their own belongings. If necessary, perishable or rapidly depreciating assets may be sold during the probate process in New Mexico.
Becoming a representative is a significant undertaking with various responsibilities. Any gross misconduct or mismanagement can lead to the removal of the representative and potential legal consequences for breaching fiduciary duty. Throughout the process, there are also tax obligations and numerous other details to address.
Given the significant responsibilities involved, it is perfectly acceptable to seek assistance. It is essential for the personal representative to work closely with Michele Ungvarsky, an experienced probate attorney, who can provide guidance in this confusing process.