In general, a personal representative’s duties are to probate the decedent’s will; specifically to inventory and determine the value of the assets of the decedent’s estate, take possession of those assets, determine the liabilities of the estate and make arrangements when necessary for payment thereof, and administer and distribute the assets of the decedent’s estate in accordance with law, court order and the decedent’s wishes as set forth in the will. Various statutory provisions, portions of which are set forth below, add detail to those basics.

The duties and powers of a personal representative commence upon appointment. The powers of a personal representative relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed which are beneficial to the estate occurring prior to appointment the same effect as those occurring thereafter. Prior to appointment, a person named executor in a will may carry out written instructions of the decedent relating to the body, funeral and burial arrangements. A personal representative may ratify and accept acts on behalf of the estate done by others where the acts would have been proper for a personal representative.

A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of any probated and effective will and applicable law, and as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate. The personal representative shall use the authority conferred by applicable law, the terms of the will, if any, and any order in proceedings to which the personal representative is party for the best interests of successors to the estate.

A personal representative shall proceed expeditiously with the settlement and distribution of a decedent’s estate and, except as otherwise specified or ordered in regard to a supervised personal representative, do so without adjudication, order, or direction of the court, but the personal representative may invoke the jurisdiction of the court, in proceedings authorized by this chapter, to resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.

Within six months after appointment, or nine months after the death of the decedent, whichever is later, a personal representative, who is not a special administrator or a successor to another representative who has previously discharged this duty, shall prepare and file or mail an inventory of property owned by the decedent at the time of death, listing it with reasonable detail, and indicating as to each listed item, its fair market value as of the date of the decedent’s death, and the type and amount of any encumbrance that may exist with reference to any item.
The personal representative shall mail or deliver a copy of the inventory to the surviving spouse, if there be one, to all residuary distributees, and to interested persons or creditors who request a copy thereof.

The personal representative may employ a qualified and disinterested appraiser to assist in ascertaining the fair market value as of the date of the decedent’s death of any asset the value of which may be subject to reasonable doubt. Different persons may be employed to appraise different kinds of assets included in the estate.

If any property not included in the original inventory comes to the knowledge of a personal representative or if the personal representative learns that the value or description indicated in the original inventory for any item is erroneous or misleading, the personal representative shall make a supplementary inventory or appraisement showing the market value as of the date of the decedent’s death of the new item or the revised market value or descriptions, and the appraisers or other data relied upon, if any, and furnish copies thereof or information thereof to persons interested in the new information, and file it with the court if the original inventory was filed.

Except as otherwise provided by a decedent’s will, every personal representative has a right to, and shall take possession or control of, the decedent’s property, except that any real property or tangible personal property may be left with or surrendered to the person presumptively entitled thereto unless or until, in the judgment of the personal representative, possession of the property by the personal representative will be necessary for purposes of administration. The request by a personal representative for delivery of any property possessed by an heir or devisee is conclusive evidence, in any action against the heir or devisee for possession thereof, that the possession of the property by the personal representative is necessary for purposes of administration. The personal representative shall pay taxes on, and take all steps reasonably necessary for the management, protection and preservation of, the estate in possession and may maintain an action to recover possession of property or to determine the title thereto.

The property liable for the payment of unsecured debts of a decedent includes all property transferred by the decedent by any means which is in law void or voidable as against creditors, and subject to prior liens, the right to recover this property, so far as necessary for the payment of unsecured debts of the decedent, is exclusively in the personal representative.

Until termination of the appointment a personal representative has the same power over the title to property of the estate that an absolute owner would have, in trust however, for the benefit of the creditors and others interested in the estate. This power may be exercised without notice, hearing, or order of court and when so exercised shall transfer good title to the transferee to the same extent that decedent had title thereto; provided, however, that a personal representative appointed in an informal proceeding shall not be empowered to sell, encumber, lease or distribute any interest in real estate owned by the decedent until 30 days have passed from the date of the issuance of the letters.

If the exercise of power concerning the estate is improper, the personal representative is liable to interested persons for damage or loss resulting from breach of fiduciary duty to the same extent as a trustee of an express trust. The rights of purchasers and others dealing with a personal representative shall be determined as provided in sections 524.3-713 and 524.3-714.

Any sale or encumbrance to the personal representative, the personal representative’s spouse, agent or attorney, or any corporation or trust in which the personal representative has a substantial beneficial interest, or any transaction which is affected by a substantial conflict of interest on the part of the personal representative, is voidable by any person interested in the estate except one who has consented after fair disclosure, unless
(1) the will or a contract entered into by the decedent expressly authorized the transaction; or
(2) the transaction is approved by the court after notice to interested persons.

(a) A person who in good faith either assists a personal representative or deals with the personal representative for value is protected as if the personal representative properly exercised power. The fact that a person knowingly deals with a personal representative does not alone require the person to inquire into the existence of a power or the propriety of its exercise. Except for restrictions on powers of supervised personal representatives which are endorsed on letters as provided in section 524.3-504, no provision in any will or order of court purporting to limit the power of a personal representative is effective except as to persons with actual knowledge thereof. A person is not bound to see to the proper application of estate assets paid or delivered to a personal representative. The protection here expressed extends to instances in which some procedural irregularity or jurisdictional defect occurred in proceedings leading to the issuance of letters, including a case in which the alleged decedent is found to be alive. The protection here expressed is not by substitution for that provided by comparable provisions of the laws relating to commercial transactions and laws simplifying transfers of securities by fiduciaries.
(b) If property is wrongfully transferred by a person acting as a personal representative to a person who is not in good faith, a subsequent good faith purchaser is protected as if the original transferee dealt in good faith. Any purchaser in good faith is protected as if all prior transfers were made in good faith.

Except as restricted or otherwise provided by the will or by an order in a formal proceeding and subject to the priorities stated in section 524.3-902, a personal representative, acting reasonably for the benefit of the interested persons, may properly:
(1) retain assets owned by the decedent pending distribution or liquidation including those in which the representative is personally interested or which are otherwise improper for trust investment;
(2) receive assets from fiduciaries, or other sources;
(3) perform, compromise or refuse performance of the decedent’s contracts that continue as obligations of the estate, as the personal representative may determine under the circumstances. In performing enforceable contracts by the decedent to convey or lease land, the personal representative, among other possible courses of action, may:
(i) execute and deliver a deed of conveyance for cash payment of all sums remaining due or the purchaser’s note for the sum remaining due secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on the land; or
(ii) deliver a deed in escrow with directions that the proceeds, when paid in accordance with the escrow agreement, be paid to the successors of the decedent, as designated in the escrow agreement;
(4) satisfy written charitable pledges of the decedent irrespective of whether the pledges constituted binding obligations of the decedent or were properly presented as claims, if in the judgment of the personal representative the decedent would have wanted the pledges completed under the circumstances;
(5) if funds are not needed to meet debts and expenses currently payable and are not immediately distributable, deposit or invest liquid assets of the estate, including moneys received from the sale of other assets, in federally insured interest-bearing accounts, readily marketable secured loan arrangements or other prudent investments which would be reasonable for use by trustees generally;
(6) acquire or dispose of an asset, including land in this or another state, for cash or on credit, at public or private sale; and manage, develop, improve, exchange, partition, change the character of, or abandon an estate asset;
(7) make ordinary or extraordinary repairs or alterations in buildings or other structures, demolish any improvements, raze existing or erect new party walls or buildings;
(8) subdivide, develop or dedicate land to public use; make or obtain the vacation of plats and adjust boundaries; or adjust differences in valuation on exchange or partition by giving or receiving considerations; or dedicate easements to public use without consideration;
(9) enter for any purpose into a lease as lessor or lessee, with or without option to purchase or renew, for a term within or extending beyond the period of administration;
(10) enter into a lease or arrangement for exploration and removal of minerals or other natural resources or enter into a pooling or unitization agreement;
(11) abandon property when, in the opinion of the personal representative, it is valueless, or is so encumbered, or is in condition that it is of no benefit to the estate;
(12) vote stocks or other securities in person or by general or limited proxy;
(13) pay calls, assessments, and other sums chargeable or accruing against or on account of securities, unless barred by the provisions relating to claims;
(14) hold a security in the name of a nominee or in other form without disclosure of the interest of the estate but the personal representative is liable for any act of the nominee in connection with the security so held;
(15) insure the assets of the estate against damage, loss and liability and the personal representative against liability as to third persons;
(16) borrow money with or without security to be repaid from the estate assets or otherwise; and advance money for the protection of the estate;
(17) effect a fair and reasonable compromise with any debtor or obligor, or extend, renew or in any manner modify the terms of any obligation owing to the estate. The personal representative on holding a mortgage, pledge or other lien upon property of another person may, in lieu of foreclosure, accept a conveyance or transfer of encumbered assets from the owner thereof in satisfaction of the indebtedness secured by lien;
(18) pay in compliance with section 524.3-805, but without the presentation of a claim, the reasonable and necessary last illness expenses of the decedent (except as provided in section 524.3-806 (a)), reasonable funeral expenses, debts and taxes with preference under federal or state law, and other taxes, assessments, compensation of the personal representative and the personal representative’s attorney, and all other costs and expenses of administration although the same may be otherwise barred under section 524.3-803;
(19) sell or exercise stock subscription or conversion rights; consent, directly or through a committee or other agent, to the reorganization, consolidation, merger, dissolution, or liquidation of a corporation or other business enterprise;
(20) allocate items of income or expense to either estate income or principal, as permitted or provided by law;
(21) employ persons, including attorneys, auditors, investment advisors, or agents, even if they are associated with the personal representative, to advise or assist the personal representative in the performance of administrative duties; act without independent investigation upon their recommendations; and instead of acting personally, employ one or more agents to perform any act of administration, whether or not discretionary;
(22) prosecute or defend claims, or proceedings in any jurisdiction for the protection of the estate and of the personal representative in the performance of duties;
(23) sell, mortgage, or lease any real or personal property of the estate or any interest therein, including the homestead, exempt or otherwise, for cash, credit, or for part cash and part credit, with or without security for unpaid balances, and without the consent of any devisee or heir unless the property has been specifically devised to a devisee or heir by decedent’s will, except that the homestead of a decedent when the spouse takes any interest therein shall not be sold, mortgaged or leased unless the written consent of the spouse has been obtained;
(24) continue any unincorporated business or venture in which the decedent was engaged at the time of death (i) in the same business form for a period of not more than four months from the date of appointment of a general personal representative if continuation is a reasonable means of preserving the value of the business including good will, (ii) in the same business form for any additional period of time that may be approved by order of the court in a formal proceeding to which the persons interested in the estate are parties; or (iii) throughout the period of administration if the business is incorporated by the personal representative and if none of the probable distributees of the business who are competent adults object to its incorporation and retention in the estate;
(25) incorporate any business or venture in which the decedent was engaged at the time of death;
(26) provide for exoneration of the personal representative from personal liability in any contract entered into on behalf of the estate;
(27) satisfy and settle claims and distribute the estate as provided in this chapter;
(28) foreclose a mortgage, lien, or pledge or collect the debts secured thereby, or complete any such proceeding commenced by the decedent;
(29) exercise all powers granted to guardians and conservators by sections 524.5-101 to 524.5-502.

(a) A personal representative is entitled to reasonable compensation for services. If a will provides for compensation of the personal representative and there is no contract with the decedent regarding compensation, the personal representative may renounce the provision before qualifying and be entitled to reasonable compensation. A personal representative also may renounce the right to all or any part of the compensation. A written renunciation of fee may be filed with the court.
(b) In determining what is reasonable compensation, the court shall give consideration to the following factors:
(1) the time and labor required;
(2) the complexity and novelty of problems involved; and
(3) the extent of the responsibilities assumed and the results obtained.

Any personal representative or person nominated as personal representative who defends or prosecutes any proceeding in good faith, whether successful or not, or any interested person who successfully opposes the allowance of a will, is entitled to receive from the estate necessary expenses and disbursements including reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred. When after demand the personal representative refuses to prosecute or pursue a claim or asset of the estate or a claim is made against the personal representative on behalf of the estate and any interested person shall then by a separate attorney prosecute or pursue and recover such fund or asset for the benefit of the estate, or when, and to the extent that, the services of an attorney for any interested person contribute to the benefit of the estate, as such, as distinguished from the personal benefit of such person, such attorney shall be paid such compensation from the estate as the court shall deem just and reasonable and commensurate with the benefit to the estate from the recovery so made or from such services.

After notice to all interested persons or on petition of an interested person or on appropriate motion if administration is supervised, the propriety of employment of any person by a personal representative including any attorney, auditor, investment advisor or other specialized agent or assistant, the reasonableness of the compensation of any person so employed, or the reasonableness of the compensation determined by the personal representative for personal representative services, may be reviewed by the court. Any person who has received excessive compensation from an estate for services rendered may be ordered to make appropriate refunds.