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Personal Representative/Executor

Qualities To Look For In A Personal Representative

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Ideally, a Personal Representative is someone who:

  • Can understand your wishes.
  • Agrees to carry out your wishes even if s/he disagrees with them.
  • Is responsible enough to actually follow through.
  • Is honest.
  • Is organized, detail-oriented and at least somewhat knowledgeable about finances. Personal representatives have the legal authority to bring in needed experts such as accountants, financial advisors or lawyers. The more work your Personal Representative does, the less the attorney has to do -- and the lower the attorney's fee can be. On the other hand, if the estate can afford an attorney, the person you choose could work with an attorney who can handle the details of the estate.
  • Is likely to live longer than you -- and long enough to complete the administration of the estate. (It generally takes at least 6 months to a year to settle an estate. Sometimes it takes a good deal longer.
  • Lives nearby -- preferably in the same state. Living nearby avoids travel costs, long-distance phone calls, and similar expenses. Your state may also impose special requirements on out-of-state representatives. For instance, some states require an out-of-state representative to post a bond to protect your heirs in case your assets are mismanaged. Some states even require an out-of-state person to appoint an in-state agent who is available to receive legal documents on his or her behalf. 
  • Is friendly to, or at least not at odds with, your heirs.
  • Will preserve your assets prudently so they don't lose value during the settlement of your estate. If the person doesn't have investment knowledge firsthand, he or she should be able to work with your financial advisor or to choose one of his or her own. 
    • Some advisors suggest appointing a person who will inherit a substantial amount of your property. Someone with an interest in your property is more likely to do a good job of managing your estate. 
    • Avoid choosing someone if their decision about asset division could benefit themselves against one of your other heirs. Such a situation will only invite trouble among your heirs.
  • Actually agrees to do the job. The work can be like having a part-time job.

NOTE: If  you feel there is someone such as a first born child that would be unhappy if he or she were not appointed your Personal Representative, but the person doesn't have the necessary qualities, consider making him or her co-representative. The 

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