A Personal Representative (depending on the state can be known as an Executor or Administrator) is the individual responsible for managing and distributing the estate after an individual has passed away. This person is either someone named while creating a Will or it is someone appointed by the Probate Court to manage the estate.
When you are naming an individual (or more than one person) as your Personal Representative, there are some important things to take into consideration. This person will be responsible for not only the immediate actions such as taking care of the funeral arrangements, paying current monthly expenses, locating and notifying any beneficiaries, but they will also be responsible for moving the process through the Probate Court and administering the wishes of your Will. The Probate Court process will need to be completed according to a specified timeline. Paperwork will need to be filed, statements will need to be published in newspapers, records of assets created, location of and notification to creditors, filing of final tax returns, plus many more duties. Because of the importance of these responsibilities, it can be an overwhelming situation for some.
Additionally, if you know that your final wishes will be contested that should be an important consideration in who you are naming. Are you having one child act as the Executor when the division of the property will not be distributed equally, or one child was disinherited? Is your spouse a stepparent that does not have a good relationship with your children? Is there already between your family, friends and loved ones?
If a contested situation is something that might be a possibility, you should take into consideration the benefit of hiring a law firm, company, or other individual. There may be more of an expense involved, but the final outcome may be less contentious and create less disruption during an already painful time. Additionally, each state has their own probate process and having an experience professional navigate this complicated process may be a benefit in and of itself.
The role of a Personal Representative is a very time-consuming process and can become extremely complicated depending on the estate. Whomever you name should be someone that is very organized and detail-orientated, understands the financial aspects related to your estate, has the time to efficiently and effectively devote to the length of the process, and the patience to deal with any complications that may arise.
Lastly, make certain before naming a Personal Representative that they will legally meet all guidelines set by the state in which you reside. Because each state is different, consulting an Estate Attorney is always the best practice.
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