Under Maine law, as in most other states, the probate process begins in the probate court of the county where the decedent resided at the time of death. If the decedent did not live in Maine but owned real property in the state, the probate court in the county where the real estate is located handles that portion of the proceeding. The personal representative named in the will presents the original will and a certified copy of the death certificate to the court. The court then appoints the personal representative and issues letters of authority so estate administration may begin. If the decedent died without a will, the court will appoint a personal representative.
Duties of the Personal Representative
Under Maine statutes, the personal representative must contact all heirs and devisees named in the will, supplying them or any other interested party with a copy of the will if requested. The personal representative must submit an estate inventory to the court along with the approximate value of all real and personal property titled solely in the decedent's name at the time of his demise. The personal representative pays the estate's debt and taxes, collects any income due the estate and manages estate assets. After debts and taxes are paid, the personal representative prepares a final accounting to the court before distributing remaining assets to heirs and devisees.
While the personal representative may petition the court to voluntarily terminate the position, parties with an interest in the estate may also petition the court to have the personal representative removed. After the filing of such a petition, the court determines the time for a hearing and notice is sent to the personal representative by the petitioner. Once the personal representative receives the notice, she should not perform any actions on the estate other than correcting "maladministration," or preserving the estate. The court will consider whether removing the personal representative is in the estate's best interests or if the personal representative deliberately made factual misrepresentations in appointment proceedings.
The role of personal representative involves a great deal of responsibility, effort and time. Maine statutes allow "reasonable compensation" for these services. If the will allows for compensation but there is no contract with the decedent in this regard, the personal representative may renounce the will's provision before qualification and is entitled to reasonable compensation. The personal representative may also waive the right to compensation. In this case, the personal representative should file a written compensation renunciation with the court.