If you’re serving as the personal representative of an estate, you’re taking on a big responsibility. As the personal representative, you’re tasked with making an inventory of the estate’s assets, paying debts and distributing the remaining assets to heirs. A court will oversee this process, known as probate, but what happens if you make a probate mistake? That’s what probate bonds are for.

The Debts Need to Be Paid First

When a person leaves a will, that will usually states how the deceased wants the estate to be distributed to heirs. However, before the beneficiaries can receive their inheritance, any creditors must be paid.

The personal representative, also called the executor of the estate, must notify creditors. In Oregon, a notice must be put in the newspaper, and creditors are given at least four months to make a claim. Before the personal representative can distribute the assets to the heirs, these debts must be settled. The personal representative must also make sure that all taxes are paid.

The Fiduciary Duty of an Executor

As the executor of an estate, you take on a fiduciary duty to act on behalf of the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

So what happens if you shirk those duties?

For example, what happens if you sell a house that’s part of an estate, pocket the cash, and go to Mexico? You wouldn’t do that – but what if you did?

Or what if you made a probate mistake? Maybe you forgot about a creditor. Maybe there was some sort of confusion or oversight, and a debt isn’t paid like it should be. What happens then?

Well, that’s what probate bonding is for.

Probate Bond Oregon

The court that oversees the probate process wants to ensure that all creditors get paid. For this reason, the court may require probate bonding, also called an estate surety bond or a fiduciary bond. If you’re serving as a personal representative of an estate and you mess up, the bond issuer will cover the losses. A probate bond is like an insurance policy, although unlike an insurance payout, a payout issued by the bond company must be paid back. (The premiums paid by the executor are not refundable.)

A probate bond isn’t always required. In some cases, the court may waive the probate bond. A waiver may be possible if the will states that no bond is needed or if a financial institution acts as the executor of the estate, for example. However, the court may require a probate bond.

Securing a Probate Bond

If you are required to secure a probate bond as the personal representative of the estate, you will need to apply for one from a surety bond company. This is similar to applying for an insurance policy, and the surety bond underwriter will need some information about the estate and your role.

Also, as with an insurance policy, a probate bond will require a premium payment. The cost of the premium will depend on the value of the estate. On a recent estate with a value of about $600,000, the premium for the bond was about $1,700 – to give you a rough idea of what to expect.

For guidance on Oregon Probate, contact Skinner Law.

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