When The Personal Representative Needs To Be Bonded

In certain estate situations, the probate court will ask that the person in charge of the estate be bonded. To find out why this is needed and what to do, read on.

Probate: The Process     

Probate is the legal process for administering an estate after a death. It consists of filing the last will and testament with the clerk of the probate court and awaiting a series of events:

  • The will is accepted as valid and the true last will of the deceased.
  • All those owed money by the estate are entreated to come forward.
  • A personal representative or executor is appointed to serve as the estate's administrator.
  • The estate is inventoried.
  • All those contesting the will may come forward.
  • The estate is closed having satisfied creditors, taxes owed, and the beneficiaries of the will.

Probate Bonds

A bond can be thought of as a type of insurance policy. For estate purposes, a bond is insurance for the court and the estate's beneficiaries so that the personal representative will perform their tasks properly and ethically. The bond must be purchased by the estate or the personal representative depending on the state rules. The cost is a certain percentage of the value of the estate. If the personal representative fails to keep the estate property safe, the bond can be invoked.

Fiduciary Responsibility

The above term means that someone in a position of power like a personal representative has a responsibility to the others involved in the estate process. Things can happen during probate that results in the loss of property. It's not always necessarily about the integrity of the personal representative, although the bond can protect the estate against criminal actions as well. The bond may also be used to cover bad decisions, carelessness, and other wrongdoing by the personal representative of the estate.

For instance, the job of the personal representative is to keep the estate safe and provide the beneficiaries with their inheritance. If they allow property to be stolen from the home of the deceased, the bond could be used to reimburse the beneficiaries of the property. One of the main duties of the personal representative is to keep the estate secure. That can mean having the locks changed, engaging security measures, hiring a caretaker, and more.

Not all estates require a bond. It's up to the probate judge to order that a bond be purchased. To learn more about probate bonds, speak to your probate law attorney.