One of the benefits of having a Will is appointing an individual to administer your estate upon your death and ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. The person appointed is called the Personal Representative. Because the Personal Representative plays a critical role in handling your finances after your death, it is important to control who the Personal Representative will be. If you do not appoint an individual in your Will, the court will select one for you. In determining who should be the Personal Representative of your estate, here are some things to consider:
- The duties of a Personal Representative: administering an estate from start to finish involves a good deal of paperwork and deadlines and thus requires some level of organization and responsibility. The Personal Representative is charged with identifying, gathering and managing the assets of the estate, notifying the decedent’s creditors of the decedent’s passing, paying all bills and taxes due, and distributing the decedent’s assets according to the terms of the decedent’s Will. As a result, you want an individual who is not only organized and responsible, but also trustworthy.
- The time it takes to administer an estate: generally, the probate process takes ten to twelve months. Occasionally, depending on the circumstances, probate can sometimes take years. Thus, a Personal Representative should be an individual that is available to dedicate the time needed to wind up your affairs. A person with significant demands on their time may not be the best choice to act as your Personal Representative.
Due to a Personal Representative’s duties and the time it takes to administer an estate, a testator should also consider the age and health of a potential Personal Representative. Because the Personal Representative must be around after your death, it may be wise to choose an individual that is younger than you and in good health. Lastly, make sure to ask a prospective Personal Representative if they would be willing to act as a Personal Representative of your estate as you want to choose someone who will not refuse your appointment.