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Whom Should I Name as Personal Representative of My Estate?

The personal representative of an individual’s estate is the person granted authority by a probate court to settle an individual’s affairs. The responsibilities of the personal representative include submitting an inventory to the court, entering into any necessary business transactions, distributing property, and submitting an accounting to the court.

Some clients have a little difficulty in deciding who will be the personal representative. Here are some things to keep in mind in making such an important decision:

  1. TRUSTWORTHINESS: Is the personal representative a trustworthy person? This person will be responsible for the totality of a person’s probate estate. Depending on the size of the estate, that can mean he/she will have responsibility of a great amount of assets. You will want to be sure that the personal representative will faithfully discharge his/her duties.

  2. FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Does the personal representative have experience in handling his/her own checking account, business, or other financial transactions? Some counties in Indiana require a person to detail his/her experience in financial matters prior to a court appointing him/her as personal representative. Beyond that, the client would not want someone inexperienced in finances in the first place.

  3. PROXIMITY: Does the personal representative live close to the assets in the estate? Does he/she at least live in the same state as the decedent? While much of today’s business can be done remotely, i.e., from a different state, some matters would be handled much more easily if the personal representative is local. These matters would include cleaning out the decedent’s house, selling a house, and distributing the decedent’s personal property.

  4. CONFLICT MANAGER: How well does the personal representative handle conflict? Is he/she skilled in seeking resolution to conflict. Unfortunately, many family members argue with one another over the estate after the death of a loved one. Will the personal representative be a peacemaker?

These are just a few factors to consider in selecting a personal representative. The best approach is to speak with an attorney about who would be the best person to serve in the capacity of personal representative. Such a decision can impact whether the estate will be settled in a peaceful, efficient manner.