Persons who have been nominated to serve as a personal representative under a Will often express a concern that they may become liable for the debts of the deceased person’s estate.
The answer to this is a qualified no. In the normal course of administering a probate estate, the Personal Representative should not become personally responsible for debts of the estate. However, a Personal Representative must take care, when transacting estate business, to:
- Disclose the representative capacity of Personal Representative, and
- Identify the estate for which he/she is Personal Representative.
Failure to follow these formalities can lead to personal liability as discussed in the recent Arizona Court of Appeals case of Gordon v. Brooks 1 CA-CV 14-0802, 5/30/17. This was a case where the Personal Representative sold estate property. The buyer sued them individually on the contract. The Personal Representative had not disclosed that he was PR for an estate and did not disclose the estate in the contract. The court ruled that, to take advantage of the immunity afforded a Personal Representative, both disclosures must be made. Absent the disclosures, the Personal Representative is not immune from personal liability.
The lawyers at Platt and Westby, P.C. have been practicing in the area of Probate and Trust Law in the Phoenix, Arizona, area for over 40 years. Contact any of our Phoenix Probate lawyers at 602-277-4441 or use our contact page to schedule a no-fee initial conference concerning any matter involving Probate, Estate Administration or Trust Administration. We will answer your questions and, where appropriate, suggest potential solutions.