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Terminology and Qualifications:

If a person dies with a will and names someone to distribute the estate assets that person is called an Executor. If a person dies without a will a relative successfully petitions a probate court to be appointed to distribute assets that person is called an Administrator. Either is known as Personal Representative. The difference is important because Nevada discriminates against out of state Administrators but not out of state Executors.

If you are named as the Executor in a will a Nevada probate court will appoint you (if the will is valid and you have not been convicted of a felony and are not crazy or underage) to be Executor no matter whether you live in Nevada or Afghanistan. But if you and your spouse live in California and your spouse dies with property in Nevada in his sole name but without a will, and even if you would inherit everything under the applicable laws, you cannot be the Administrator unless you associate a Nevada resident Co-Administrator. 

What the Personal Representative Does:

In most probates the Personal Representative collects cash for the estate, either by collecting cash from financial accounts or selling assets of the estate. (If the decedent owned a farm or other business as in individual, the Personal Representative will have the additional duty of continuing to run the business either until sale or until it is passed on to heirs, or wrapping up the business, but this is an uncommon probate scenario.) The Personal Representative also has deal with debt claims against the estate. If a bill comes in, say for medical care of the Decedent, and the Personal Representative wants to pay it, the Personal Representative doesn't have to do anything except provide for the payment when the estate is closed. However, the Personal Representative may want to negotiate a bill, or even try to avoid paying it. Unless the Personal Representative wants to pay the bill in full, he or she should mail the claimant a "Notice to Creditors" prepared by the estate attorney and then, unless the claimant files a Creditor's Claim with the Court promptly, the claim is dismissed.

How Hard is it to be a Personal Representative?:

Collecting Financial Assets: This can be hard or easy depending on the number of different financial institutions involved. One person might keep money in 20 different financial institutions while another person might keep the same amount of money in just one financial institution.

Selling Personal Property: The Personal Representative is not required to sell assets retail. A car can be sold to CarMax or other car dealer. Guns and coins can be sold to dealers. Clothing and furniture, in most cases, can appropriately be given to Good Will or similar charity. Valuable furniture and clothing can be placed with consignment shops or sold to dealers. If there are painting or prints on the walls of Decedent's residence the Personal Representative should consult an art dealer or someone knowledgeable about art. (Most original paintings won't have any significant value.) Of course, nothing prevents a very dedicated Personal Representative from selling assets retail through e-bay or to individuals to obtain higher prices.

Cleaning up a Residence for Sale: A personal representative may hire a cleaning crew and repair people to make a residence presentable for sale. Most real estate brokers can hire clean up crews and repair people if you list the property with them. The charges for the clean up and repairs will come out of the estate's money.

Dealing with Unhappy Heir or non-Heirs: In an uncontested probate the Personal Representative will not face any strife. However, if Dad has dis-inherited adult son, it could happen that disinherited adult son will harass the Personal Representative or even make threats.

Professional Administrators:

Counties typically have a Public Administrator. In Clark County, home of Las Vegas, the Public Administrator enjoys a reputation for high quality work. In most cases the Public Administrator can be hired to be the Personal Representative. There are also private professional administrators.

So, in general, professional Administrators are local, competent, and have a list of professionals such as realtors and dealers they trust. They also are used to the occasional unpleasant phone call from a disgruntled heir or disinherited person.

The chief disadvantage of hiring a professional administrator is that the professional administrator will charge the statutory personal representative's fee (and more in complicated cases) which is the same fee our firm charges as the legal fee--which, as pointed out elsewhere is less than most of competitors charge.

The only sensible reasons to hire a professional administrator are:

1) None of the heirs wants the responsibility of doing the work of selling the estate assets and dealing with creditor claims and possibly hiring a tax professional to do estate taxes, or

2) The heirs are all fighting with each other and none of the heirs wants to deal with that unpleasantness.

In most cases our client Administrators and Executors have no problems doing their jobs--naturally we advise on what they have to do--but every now and then one of them says to us at the end, "I didn't think I was going to take a fee for being Personal Representative but it was so much work I think I will."

Personal Representative Fees:

The Personal Representative is entitled to a statutory fee of 4% on the first $15,000 of the estate, 3% on the next $85,000 in value, and 2% on anything over that. For estates over $100,000 that comes out to a fee of $3,150 on the first $100,000 and 2% on anything over that.

Usually if the personal representative is an heir, they waive their fee because the fee would be subject to both federal income tax, and federal self-employment tax for social security and Medicare, if the personal representative lives in a state or county or city with an income tax to that those taxes as well. Nevada does not charge an estate tax or an inheritance tax.

Of course, a professional Administrator is only in it for the fee. And, if it is a small estate with a lot of work the professional Administrator will be successful in obtaining a fee larger than the statutory fee.

Non-professional Nevada Resident Co-Administrator Fees:

If a Nevada resident Co-Administrator is required in an uncontested probate where the non-resident Administrator (usually a major heir of the estate) is going to do all the work, the non-resident Administrator can ask a Nevada resident friend to serve as Nevada Resident Co-Administrator. Often these friends initially agree to do so as a favor or for little pay and then get worried about liability and back out. However, if you need a Nevada resident Co-Administrator it is your option to hire a friend and to make whatever financial arrangement with them you like providing that they are not paid more than the statutory personal representative fee discussed above.  Alternatively, our firm can pay a person who works in our office complex (not one of our employees) to be Nevada resident Co-Administrator. We typically pay $500 for estates under $200,000 and $1,000 for estates over $200,000. However, these people are not professionals, and have regular full-time jobs so will back out if asked to substantive work or if disgruntled dis-inherited people start harassing them. If the need for a Nevada resident Co-Administrator goes beyond legal formalities it is best to hire a professional Administrator. But, some of our competitors will tell an out of state Administrator that a professional Nevada resident Administrator must be hired, even if the out of state Administrator takes responsibility for all of the work of the estate. These competitor lawyers then hire what is essentially a paralegal to serve as the Nevada resident Co-Administator. The professional administrator, usually a friend of the lawyer, saves the lawyer or their staff a lot of work and the client get billed for unnecessarily high probate expenses.

The Law Firm of Reed & Mansfield, Attorneys  Personal Injury & Property Damage, Las Vegas, NV