A personal representative is the person named in a Will to handle the Will-writer’s property after death. It is the name of the person often referred to as an Executor or Administrator. The personal representative is in charge of winding up the deceased person’s financial affairs. That means taking care of property, paying bills and taxes, and seeing that assets are transferred to their new rightful owners. If probate court proceedings are required, as they often are, the personal representative must handle them or hire a lawyer to do so.
A personal representative doesn’t need special financial or legal knowledge. Common sense, conscientiousness and honesty are the main requirements. A personal representative who needs help can hire lawyers, accountants or other experts and pay them from the assets of the estate. The person you choose should be honest, with good organizational skills and the ability to keep track of details
Many people select someone who will inherit a substantial amount of their property. This makes sense because such a person is likely to do a conscientious job of managing your affairs after your death. He or she may also have knowledge of where your records are kept and an understanding of why you want your property left as you have directed. Whomever you select, make sure the person is willing to do the job. It is a good idea to discuss the position with the person you’ve chosen, before you make your Will.
When it comes time, a personal representative can accept or decline the responsibility. Someone who agrees to serve can resign at any time. For this reason, many Wills name an alternate personal representative, otherwise a court can appoint one.
The main reason for serving as a personal representative is to honor the deceased person’s request, but the personal representative is also entitled to payment. The exact amount is regulated can be affected by factors such as the value of the deceased person’s property and what the probate court decides is reasonable. Often, close relatives and friends (especially those who are inheriting part of the estate) don’t charge the estate for their services.
Your personal representative will usually hire an attorney to assist with the legal documents needed for the estate administration. The personal representative should choose a lawyer that is capable of explaining the estate administration process. A lawyer may charge by the hour ($150-$250 is common), charge a lump sum, or charge a certain percentage of the gross value of the deceased person’s estate. The lawyer’s fee is paid from the assets of the estate. The lawyer should relieve the personal representative of the responsibility of personally handling all the details and should help protect the personal representative from any liabilities associated with serving as personal representative.