The Personal Representative of an estate has certain responsibilities and obligations that are set by statute and case law. According to the Annotated Code of Maryland, Estates & Trusts Article, Section 7-101, a Personal Representative is a “fiduciary.” “He is under a general duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the will and the estates of decedents’ law as expeditiously and with as little sacrifice of value as is reasonable under the circumstances.”
Each estate is quite unique and consequently requires individualized attention. Nevertheless, the administration of an estate follows a logical progression of gathering assets, paying debts, and following the dictates of the will (or, in the absence of a will, the dictates of the intestacy statute).
The purpose of this discussion, however, it not to set forth the specific tasks of a personal representative. Instead, this discussion will focus on the nature of the fiduciary obligation of the personal representative.
In general, the Personal Representative has a duty to settle and distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the will or in accordance with the laws of descendants as expeditiously and with as little sacrifice of the value as is reasonable under the circumstances. In order to accomplish this task, the Personal Representative takes possession and control of the estate. The Personal Representative has a duty to notify the heirs and legatees and to prepare and file an inventory of the estate. The Personal Representative must arrange for appraisals of all of the property of the estate in order to pay the inheritance tax to the state and any estate tax due the federal government. The Personal Representative has a duty to account for the management of the estate to the Orphans’ Court and to the heirs. The Personal Representative may be held liable by the creditors of the estate, the heirs of the estate, or by any other taxing authorities if the Personal Representative fails to properly execute the duties of his or her office.