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Personal Representatives Explained

Updated: Mar 12

Have you ever heard of a Personal Representative?  What about the Executor of an estate?  And what about an estate’s Administrator?

This month, we are focusing on the role that a Personal Representative plays in the care and administration of an estate.


The difference between Personal Representatives, Executors, and Administrators.

A key function of an estate plan is to designate a person to take care of your belongings and act in your name after you’re gone. This person must be responsible for gathering your assets, paying off any valid debts and costs of administering your estate, and distributing the remaining property to your chosen beneficiaries.

In general, the person who takes on and oversees these responsibilities is your Personal Representative.   You name a Personal Representative in your Will and, at the end of the probate process, the court official appoints them and creates letters testamentary stating that they have the power to administer your estate. 


There is no difference between a Personal Representative or an Executor.  They occupy the same role.  Personal Representative is simply a more modern name. 


However, an Administrator is appointed by the probate court to oversee the estate of someone who died without a Will or who’s Will is invalid.  We call this intestacy.  The duties of an Administrator are the same as a Personal Representative or an Executor, but their powers are recognized in Letters of Administration. 


Duties of Personal Representatives


Your Personal Representative is perhaps the most essential person in the process of distributing your assets after death because they oversee their administration. Administration means distributing the assets according to the will of the deceased. This person is required to act in the best interest of the estate’s beneficiaries.

A Personal Representative has four main duties which are to:

(1)   collect and inventory the deceased assets;

(2)   manage assets during probate and administration;

(3)   pay taxes and debts owed by the decedent and the estate; and

(4)   distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries.

Additionally, a Personal Representative is required to give notice to all interested parties, including known beneficiaries, potential heirs, and creditors. Personal Representatives may also be required to post bond by state law. Posting bond ensures that the beneficiaries are protected from the Personal Representative improperly taking funds from the estate. 

Who Should I Appoint As My Personal Representative


Again, your Personal Representative is one of the most essential tools you have in ensuring that your final wishes are followed. Because they are such an important part of the distribution of assets, choosing someone is a decision that should be made after much consideration.

When deciding who you would like to appoint as your Personal Representative, make sure to choose someone you trust and who has the ability to manage your assets with care and particularity.  Anyone over the age of 18 and not under a conservatorship can serve as a Personal Representative.  You can appoint a relative or a beneficiary of your estate. You can appoint a professional, such as an attorney or trust company. You should also name alternate Personal Representatives in the event your first choice is unavailable for some reason. 

If you would like, can appoint two or more people to serve as Co-Personal Representatives. But, think carefully before you do this because multiple representatives must act in unison. This means one Co-Personal Representative can effectively veto the actions of the other Co-Personal Representatives, which can lead to significant delays in the administration of your estate.

If you would like assistance in drafting your estate plan, including advice on who to choose as your Personal Representative, contact us today.



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