You’ve been asked to serve as a potential personal representative. What does that mean? A personal representative is an individual or entity listed in someone’s will. Typically, there is a chosen personal representative, along with one or two alternates. Alternates are listed so that the will does not have to be redone if the first personal representative passes away or becomes unable to serve. It also greatly decreases the likelihood of the probate court appointing someone to act as personal representative that the deceased does not know.
Generally, a personal representative is tasked with winding up the affairs of the deceased. This typically involves locating and distributing assets, paying taxes and other debts, and distributing the deceased’s assets to the beneficiaries. A personal representative need not me resident of the United States, although a probate court may find a foreign personal representative to be unsuitable due to distance, the time required to wrap up the deceased’s affairs, and so forth.
Care must go into selecting a personal representative. Being nominated as a personal representative is an important task. Consider that the personal representative is tasked with winding up the affairs, the selected personal representative(s) should be competent to act. An individual with a history of financial problems is likely not a good choice for personal representative. Similarly, an elderly individual is likely not a good choice, but may be considered if there are several possible personal representatives listed.
Personal representatives are entitled to compensation. Most personal representatives are family member, and thus refuse to be paid. There is no set amount that a personal representative may be paid, only that they may charge a reasonable fee. A person may select their attorney to be their personal representative, but often, the attorney will bill the estate their normal hourly rate if they are acting as personal representative. Like attorneys, business entities may be named as personal representatives. Businesses exist that act as personal representatives (and trustees). The advantage is the experience and knowledge to handle an estate, although the fees that are charged can be high and the business does not know the deceased intimately.