Capell & Howard P.C. Attorneys At Law Montgomery & Auburn/Opelika, AL

You’ve been asked to serve as a personal representative (executor), now what?

June 22, 2023

You’ve been asked to serve as a personal representative (executor), now what?

If you’ve been asked to serve as personal representative of the estate of a friend or family member, be sure you understand the responsibilities and potential risks before you agree to serve. Keep in mind that, even if you are named as such in a will, you’re not required to accept the appointment, but once you do, it’s more difficult to extricate yourself should you change your mind.

Here are some questions to consider before accepting the offer:

What’s your relationship to the individual? If he or she is a close family member, consider not accepting the appointment if you think your grief after his or her death will make it difficult to function effectively in the personal representative role.

Are you willing and able to take on the duties of a personal representative? Generally, a personal representative is responsible for arranging probate, identifying and taking custody of the deceased’s assets, making investment decisions, filing tax returns, handling creditors’ claims, paying the estate’s expenses, and distributing assets according to the provisions of the will. Although you can seek help from professionals — such as attorneys, accountants and investment managers — it’s still a lot of work, sometimes for little or no compensation. Ask if there’s a personal representative’s fee and whether the estate has set aside funds to pay for professional advisors. Even if no fee or commission for serving as personal representative is allowed under the will, be sure the estate will pay, or reimburse you, for any out-of-pocket costs.

What’s your location? If you live far away from the place where the assets and beneficiaries are located, the job will be more difficult, time consuming and expensive.

Do you have a good relationship with the beneficiaries? If not, accepting the appointment may put you in a difficult position, especially if you’re also a beneficiary and the other beneficiaries view that as a conflict of interest.

Finally, some individuals appoint co-personal representatives. For example, they may select one person who knows the family and understands its dynamics and an independent personal representative with the requisite expertise. Be sure you know if you’ll be serving as personal representative solo or with a partner. If there are co-personal representatives, make sure that the roles are defined in the will and that there are provisions for dealing with situations where the co-personal representatives do not agree.

If you would like additional information regarding serving as a personal representative, please contact one of our estate planning attorneys: Debby Spain, Steve Wiggins, Raley Wiggins, Russ Russell or Caty Richardson.