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How To Choose The Best Executor/Personal Representative

When you draft a will, the attorney will ask who you want to name as your executor/personal representative. In order to best answer this question, you need to understand all the responsibilities involved. An executor/executrix used to be the terminology used under a will and personal representative was used to appoint someone who died intestate (without a will). In modern times, it has become more common to use the term personal representative in both situations as it is gender neutral and all encompassing.

What are a personal representative's responsibilities?

-To contact the probate court to initiate the probate process in every county you own property.

-To begin the process of collecting and safeguarding all of your real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, motor vehicles and other personal property when you die.

-To file a notice to creditors to solicit claims against the estate by the required deadline.

-To file an initial inventory with the probate court. This document lists all of your assets and liabilities and IS PUBLIC RECORD! If this fact concerns you, learn how a revocable living trust may afford you the privacy you desire.

-To complete income tax returns for you for the year in which death occurred and continuing to file estate tax returns until the estate is closed.

-To determine the validity of claims against the estate and in what priority they must be paid according to the law.

-After paying the valid claims, the personal representative must distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the terms of your will.

-At lastly, your personal representative can file a final accounting showing a zero-estate balance with the probate court to close out the estate.

Knowing all of these responsibilities, it is clear you need someone who is trustworthy and competent. Ask yourself some of the following questions to determine who you should name as executor/personal representative:

1.      Will this person be able to handle the complexity of collecting assets, paying bills and filing inventories in a timely manner?


2.      Will this person be able to handle this role during a period of grieving?


3.      Would naming this person complicate any family dynamics and cause unnecessary conflict?

Any competent person over the age of 18 can serve as an executor/personal representative. A financial institution or trust company can also serve. Executors can be reasonably compensated for their efforts with money from your estate.

Many clients come to an estate planning consultation knowing ahead of time exactly how they want to distribute their assets, but some have never considered the question of who to name as personal representative. This may require some additional time and consideration. It is also advisable to name at least one, preferably two successors in case the first choice is not able to accept the appointment for any reason.

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