Factors to Consider When Choosing an Executor (or Personal Representative) for Your Estate

If you were investing a great deal of cash, would you want someone else to choose your financial advisor for you or would you want to have control over the decision of who will be managing your money so you can select the best possible person for the job? The answer, of course, for most people is that they want to be able to vet and personally select the people who will be making important decisions for them.

The same should be true for the administration of an estate. It is natural to want to ensure that your affairs and assets are handled in accordance with your wishes after death, and you have the power to make that happen. However, if you fail to appoint an executor (here in Florida, that individual is known as a Personal Representative) for your will, the decision of who will administer your estate will fall to whomever the courts decide.

There are a varying number of duties required of a Personal Representative depending on the complexity of the estate and the amount of detail in instructions left for him or her. These duties can include:

  • finding/managing assets until distributed to heirs
  • hiring an attorney for representation
  • deciding whether probate is necessary
  • using estate funds to pay continuing expenses
  • determining and paying taxes and debts (including notifying creditors)

Perhaps the courts will choose the same person you would have selected for these essential duties, perhaps not. So why leave it up to chance?

You have the right to choose a Personal Representative to administer your estate after you die, but how do you choose someone for such an important task? Many people simply choose their spouse or their closest relative, but you should not take this decision lightly or select the person that is the most convenient.

There are several factors you should consider when selecting a Personal Representative.

First is the level of trust you have in the person to complete the task efficiently and accurately. You are giving fiduciary duty over your estate to this person, meaning they are required to act in good faith and honesty on your behalf. Your Personal Representative needs to be impartial and diligent.

Next, is the person prepared for the burden of being a Personal Representative? Administering an estate can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. A running joke in the estate planning industry is that, if you have a poorly planned estate, you should name your worst enemy your Personal Representative. You may not want your already grieving spouse to have to handle the burden of administering your estate, so make sure you select someone who is prepared for the challenges of being a Personal Representative.

Finally, while it is not required by law, you may want to select someone with strong financial or business acumen. Practically all Personal Representatives will handle a number of sensitive and often complicated financial challenges, so it could be beneficial to select someone who has a knack for numbers.

It is never too early to create a will and select a Personal Representative for your estate, but the decision should not be made lightly. Your Personal Representative will be the person most responsible for ensuring that your affairs and assets are handled and distributed exactly how you wish them to be, so choose wisely and call the Law Offices of John Mangan to learn more about planning your estate and selecting the Personal Representative for your will.

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