A personal representative, or an executor, refers to an appointed individual charged with the responsibility of managing the person’s estate. This represents a huge responsibility for the executor, even for seemingly modest estates.
As the personal representative, they will be required to take care of the details of finalizing the estate after you have died. This can include identifying assets and debts, paying legitimate creditor claims, taking care of any tax liability, and distributing the assets in accordance with your wishes and instructions.
Because of these fiduciary responsibilities, it’s imperative for you to choose an individual you believe can and will see the entire job through to the end. This may be a trusted family member, friend, or even your attorney or accountant.
Who Can Serve
While personal representative requirements can vary from state to state, certain rules will generally apply everywhere in the U.S.
- Be of Age
A personal representative must be at least 18 years old, although some states may increase the minimum age to 21. This rule exists as the basic requirement, as minors in the U.S. have special legal standing under the law which prevents them from consenting to certain things, such as military service. As such, they cannot consent to oversee an estate plan.
- Be a Legal U.S. Resident
Again, not a federal requirement, but it does come into play in many states.
- Be Mentally Fit
You must be mentally fit to handle the job. If the personal representative is deemed incapable of these decisions, they can be disqualified from serving as a personal representative. For example, you may have designated your spouse when you and your spouse were younger, healthier, and mentally strong. However imagine if you never updated that part of your estate plan, and your spouse became senile in their old age.
You can and should change your personal representative whenever your current designee becomes unfit such as moving out of the country, getting incarcerated, or otherwise making it unreasonable for you to expect them to be able to do the task, upon your death. Working with a qualified estate planning attorney will ensure you pick a personal representative that is right for the job.
Responsibilities of the Personal Representative
General tasks can include:
- Creating and Managing an Asset List
The representative will identify your assets and access to them. Identify who are the beneficiaries. Determine if assets are in a trust and ensure the assets in the trust are distributed as instructed.
- Enforcing Decisions
The personal representative will also deal with any problems that may arise and use your final wishes to distribute assets in spite of protests from some disappointed family members. Your personal representative has the authority and the responsibility to uphold your final wishes and must act accordingly. Actively interfering with those instructions can get the executor dismissed from service.
- Dealing with Final Debts
If there are any legitimate outstanding debts, the personal representative will be required to get those taken care of before distributing the assets to beneficiaries.
Carlsbad Estate Planning Lawyer Andrew Fesler Can Help
As with most aspects of estate planning, the key to effectively selecting your executor begins with taking the time to talk with an experienced and qualified lawyer. To learn more about how to choose a personal representative and develop a comprehensive estate plan reach out to Attorney Andrew Fesler. Our office is well-versed in all aspects of estate planning as well as estate administration. We can help you prepare for your future. Contact the Law Office of Andrew Fesler today by calling (760) 444-0943.