Even before being approved by the court as personal representative, the person named in the will should take steps to locate, gather, and protect the decedent's assets. It is not ok for family to help themselves to the decedent's belongings before the will is probated. Assets can only be distributed to the beneficiaries under the will if all creditor's claims have been paid and expenses are paid in the order specified by the probate court.
In order for a person named in the will to act on behalf of the estate, a court must confirm and approve the appointment (or qualification) of the personal representative. The approval process requires the filing of a request with the probate court for appointment.The court will then issue a Certificate of Appointment (South Carolina) or Letters Testamentary (North Carolina). Once approved by the court, the personal representative may open a bank account in the name of the estate and begin to pay bills and inventory the decedent's property. The personal representative will also be responsible for preparing and filing annual accounts of the decedent's property with the probate court. There are numerous other duties. In North Carolina, a helpful resource for personal representatives is the North Carolina Estate Procedures Handbook.