Finding the right person to serve as your personal representative

Finding the right personal representative can ensure the smooth running of your estate.

When you are putting together your will, you may be focused on its terms. Although the terms of your will are indeed important, many people do not put much thought into the selection of the person who will carry them out. This person is called a personal representative or executor. Since a poor selection of a personal representative can mean that your estate will be mismanaged, plagued by delays or subject to probate litigation, it is important to have a competent individual in charge.

In Massachusetts, personal representatives are charged with carrying out very important duties for your estate such as:

• Gathering, valuing and identifying the assets of the estate

• Paying valid debts of the estate

• Opposing invalid creditor claims

• Paying any income or estate taxes due

• Distributing estate assets according to the terms of your will

• Closing the estate

Since virtually none of the duties of a personal representative are trivial, having someone who is able to handle the job is crucial. When you are thinking about whom you would like to serve as your personal representative, experts offer the following tips:

• Do not choose your personal representative based solely on their relation to you. Instead, the candidate's abilities should take priority. Although optional, a person with a legal or financial background would be ideal.

• As the estate administration process can awaken conflict within the family, it is important to choose someone who deals well with adversity. Also, be sure to choose someone who you trust not to use their position to cheat or take advantage of family members.

• The estate administration process involves a significant amount of paperwork, dealing with insurance companies and other administrative matters. As a result, you should choose someone that is diligent and has the time to deal with these issues.

• If you do not have a suitable candidate or have a complex estate, an expert may be called for. In such cases, consider hiring an experienced estate administration attorney as your personal representative.

Once you have made your decision, let the person know of your selection as soon as possible. Ask your choice whether he or she would be willing to accept the role. Once you have a personal representative, name an alternate in your will in case your original choice dies, becomes incapacitated or is otherwise unwilling to fulfill the duties.

An attorney can help you decide

When deciding on your choice of personal representative, it is invaluable to have the advice of an estate planning attorney. The attorneys at Cushing & Dolan, P.C. have years of experience working with personal representatives of all abilities, and can advise you further on the qualities necessary in a suitable candidate.