Estate planning requires naming a personal representative

The personal representative is the person that one appoints in a will to administer the estate. There are other names that mean the same thing from state to state, but the term personal representative is all inclusive and generally applies in all states. The will is of course a central document of the estate planning process in Minnesota and elsewhere.

The appointment of the personal representative in the will is an important decision that should not necessarily always center on the closest family member. If that person is not amenable to hard work and financial management, there may be a problem. The personal representative must identify and collect all assets, pay necessary bills and distribute the net proceeds of the estate to the heirs designated in the will.

When collecting the assets, the personal representative may have to send letters to all local banks and investment offices to determine where the decedent may have had any unaccounted for deposits. Of course, it is hoped that such basic information would be provided as part of the decedent’s instructions, but one can never be certain. The choice of representative should be concerned with finding someone with a modicum of financial or business knowledge.

The representative must open up an estate account and keep a meticulous record of all income, deposits and expenditures. The person appointed as power of attorney for the testator during life may also be chosen as the personal representative. However, the choice should be made only after the testator is satisfied that a competent individual is chosen. For example, a child or sibling who was irresponsible with money during life would not generally be a good choice to run one’s estate.

The basic procedures for estate planning and the administration of the decedent’s estate that are generally similar in Minnesota and all other states. The choice of a representative is an important aspect of creating a successful and functional estate plan. The wrong choice could backfire, cause the estate additional expenses and legal fees and increase the time it takes to process the estate and make the important distributions provided for in the will.

Source:, “Estate Planning: Choose the right person for the job“, Matthew Wallace, Sept. 9, 2016

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