Choosing a personal representative for your will

One of the elements of estate planning that individuals often overlook is the appointment of an personal representative. In some parts of the country, people filling these positions are referred to as executors. A personal representative helps to distribute a deceased person’s assets, pay financial obligations owed by the estate and maintain any property retained by the estate until legal and practical challenges are settled.

The appointment of a responsible and capable representative is perhaps especially important for anyone whose estate may be affected by significant tax-related hurdles, complex family relationships and/or any particularly delicate matters that may arise after they are gone. Should a person not name a representative of his or her choosing and the court is compelled to name one, loved ones may be negatively impacted by any given execution problem affecting the will that could have otherwise been prevented.

Who is the best “fit” for this position?

When choosing a representative, it is important to focus on the qualities necessary for successful management of that position. Many individuals feel pressured to name a specific family member as representative because that person may expect this honor or may have his or her feelings hurt if that appointment is not made. However, this position is too important to be assumed lightly or out of loyalty as opposed to qualifications.

When thinking about who may best fill this role in regards to your estate, it is important to consider several personality traits. Who do you know who is responsible, level-headed and works well with others? Do any of the people in your life have the ability to stand their ground even when affected by conflict? Would any potential candidates work particularly hard to ensure that your wishes are honored? Would they end up being too overwhelmed by the responsibility that the appointment entails?

Naming a representative

When you have thought carefully about who may function well as the personal representative of your will, it is important to communicate your choice and any alternate choices to your estate planning attorney. If your choice is not properly communicated in writing, it may be called into question by loved ones or even by the courts. Given the vital importance of this appointment, it is important to speak with your attorney about it as soon as you are able to do so.

In addition, it is generally a good idea to communicate your wishes to the person you would like to serve as your representative and to any close family members who may be affected by your choice. This course of action will help to ensure that your wishes have been made clear and will thus be less likely to be questioned after your death.

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