Pennsylvania Personal Representative Bond: A Comprehensive Guide
At a Glance:
- Average Cost: Calculated based on a tiered structure
- Bond Amount: Determined on a case-by-case basis (more on this later)
- Who Needs it: Certain personal representatives handling the estates of deceased Pennsylvania residents or property owners
- Purpose: To ensure estate beneficiaries and creditors receive compensation if the personal representative fails to fulfill their fiduciary duties
- Who Regulates Personal Representatives in Pennsylvania: The register of wills of the county with jurisdiction over where the deceased individual resided or had property
Pennsylvania Statute 3151 et seq. requires all personal representatives of an estate to be appointed by a court before assuming their fiduciary duties. The Pennsylvania legislature enacted the appointment requirement to ensure that personal representatives do not mismanage the estate’s assets. To provide financial security for the enforcement of this requirement, the personal representative may have to purchase a probate surety bond to be eligible for appointment.
What is the Purpose of the Pennsylvania Personal Representative Bond?
Pennsylvania requires personal representatives to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to being appointed as a fiduciary over an estate’s assets. The bond ensures that the estate’s beneficiaries and creditors will receive compensation for financial harm if the personal representative fails to abide by the regulations outlined in Pennsylvania Statutes 3171 and 3173. Specifically, the bond protects beneficiaries and creditors if the personal representative commits fraud or fails to properly distribute the estate’s assets. In short, the bond is a type of insurance that protects the estate’s beneficiaries and creditors if the personal representative violates their fiduciary duties.
How Can an Insurance Agent Obtain a Pennsylvania Personal Representative Surety Bond?
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How is the Bond Amount Determined?
Pennsylvania Statute 3171 grants the register of will the authority to determine the required bond amount on a case-by-case basis. The bond must be in an amount that is sufficient to protect the interests of the estate’s beneficiaries and creditors and the register of wills must consider the value of the estate’s personal property when making their decision. The county’s orphans’ court or the register of will may increase the required amount at any time if good cause is shown.
The register of wills may require the personal representative to purchase a separate bond if the deceased individual was a fiduciary for another estate. In these instances, the register of wills has the sole authority to determine the required bond amount.
What are the Underwriting Requirements for the Pennsylvania Personal Representative Bond?
Most surety companies will examine the following factors when determining eligibility for the Pennsylvania Personal Representative bond:
- Personal representative’s credit history (not considered for bonds with limits less than $25,000)
- Whether or not the estate has an attorney (not considered for bonds with limits less than $25,000)
- How long the fiduciary appointment is for
- Whether or not the personal representative is replacing a prior fiduciary
- If the personal representative has ever committed a felony
- If there are disputes among the estate’s beneficiaries
- Whether or not there is any ongoing business in the estate
- If the bond is being required by a creditor
How Much Does the Pennsylvania Personal Representative Bond Cost?
Surety companies typically determine the premium rate for personal representative bonds based on a tiered structure. As a result, larger bond amounts will be charged a lower premium rate than smaller bonds.
The following table illustrates the pricing structure for the Pennsylvania Personal Representative bond:
$1,500,000 Personal Representative Bond Cost
|Bond Amount||Premium Rate||Total Bond Cost|
|Total cost of $4,715|
Who is Required to Purchase the Pennsylvania Personal Representative Bond?
Pennsylvania requires personal representatives to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to obtaining a fiduciary appointment. To paraphrase Pennsylvania Statute 102, a personal representative is a court-appointed fiduciary responsible for administering a deceased individual’s estate. Personal representatives are called executors if the deceased individual nominated them in their will (testate), and administrators if they were not nominated if no will exists (intestate).
Personal representatives are not required to purchase a bond if they are:
- A bank or trust company authorized to act as a fiduciary
- Nominated in the will, a Pennsylvania resident and the will explicitly waives the bond requirement
- A non-resident of the state but are serving with a co-personal representative that has custody of the estate’s assets
- A resident of Pennsylvania and either the sole residuary legatee, next of kin, or the nominee of all residuary legatees or next of kin who are competent adults
How do Personal Representatives Become Appointed in Pennsylvania?
Personal representatives in Pennsylvania must navigate several steps to become court-appointed fiduciaries. Below are the general guidelines, but applicants should refer to Pennsylvania’s probate statutes for details on the process.
Step 1 – Meet the Qualifications
Personal representatives are ineligible for appointment if they are:
- Under 18 years old
- A corporation not authorized to act as a fiduciary in Pennsylvania
- Deemed unfit by the register of wills (unless they are the executor nominated in the will)
- The nominee of an estate beneficiary who is not a citizen of the United States and will not be able to utilize their share of the estate
- Charged with voluntary manslaughter or homicide of the deceased individual
Step 2 – Determine Priority
Priority to serve as a personal representative is granted in the following order:
- Executors nominated in the will
- Suriving spouse
- Beneficiaries of an intestate estate
- Principal creditors of the deceased individual
- Any other qualified person
Any person with priority may nominate a personal representative to serve in their place.
Step 3 – Hire an Attorney
Although not explicitly required, it is highly recommended that personal representatives hire an attorney to assist with the probate process.
Step 4 – Contact the Register of Wills
Personal representatives must contact the register of wills with jurisdiction over the deceased individual’s estate. The register of wills will walk the personal representative through the appointment process, provide them with all required forms, and answer any questions they may have.
Estates with personal property worth less than $50,000 generally will not be subject to a formal probate process.
Step 5 – Purchase a Surety Bond
Unless otherwise exempt, personal representatives must purchase and maintain a surety bond (limits outlined above).
How do Pennsylvania Personal Representatives File Their Bonds?
Personal representatives should submit their completed bond forms, including the power of attorney, to the register of wills with jurisdiction over the estate.
The surety bond requires signatures from the company that issues the bond and the personal representative. The surety company should include the following information on the bond form:
- Legal name of the entity/individual(s) buying the bond
- Surety company’s name
- Bond amount
- Date the fiduciary appointment was made
- Date the bond is signed
What can Pennsylvania Personal Representatives do to Avoid Claims Made Against Their Bonds?
To avoid claims against their bonds, personal representatives in Pennsylvania must ensure that they:
- Do not engage in any acts of fraud
- Do not mismanage the estate’s assets
- Fulfill their fiduciary duties