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Three Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Personal Representative

Jan. 28, 2018

Many people understand the importance of having a comprehensive estate plan to address vital aspects of their lives. Individuals often realize that they need to create, for instance, a will or power of attorney to ensure their wishes are carried out when the time comes.

However, naming a personal representative is often a commonly overlooked element of an estate plan.

What Is a Personal Representative?

The personal representative –also known in some states as an executor/executrix — is the person who oversees the administration of an estate.

A personal representative’s duties will depend on the individual estate plan. Paying off debts and distributing assets to heirs, however, are the most common responsibilities.

Selecting an individual who possesses the dedication and the ability to perform this role is important to making sure the process goes as smooth as possible.

Questions to Ask when Naming a Personal Representative

A personal representative is typically named two different ways: via the testator/testatrix or by court appointment. If it is the former, it is vital for the testator/testatrix to answer certain questions before selecting a personal representative.

Here are a few common questions a testator/testatrix should consider:

  • How well does this person understand my wishes? The personal representative of your estate should be someone with an intimate knowledge of your circumstances.

  • Is this person organized? A personal representative is responsible for following through on dozens of different tasks. The personal representative you choose should possess good organizational skills.

  • Is this person willing? A personal representative of an estate has a tremendous amount of responsibility. The individual you choose should be both capable and willing to perform the tasks when the time comes.

Individuals who do select a personal representative often name the oldest child. However, this may not necessarily be the best option. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you determine the right person to carry out the job.