What kind of person would make a good personal representative?

Picking a good person to serve as personal representative is vital to the efficient running of your estate.

When you are thinking about your estate plan, it is easy to focus on the big issues, like deciding who will get your assets, and neglect the smaller, but just as important, decisions. One of such decisions is choosing a competent person to act as personal representative of your estate. Failing to do so could mean that your estate is managed poorly, ends up in probate litigation, or suffers similar undesirable outcomes.

In Michigan, personal representatives carry out many important duties such as:

  • Identifying your estate's assets
  • Notifying your creditors of your death and paying valid bills and claims
  • Protecting and managing your estate's assets
  • Paying income taxes and estate taxes
  • Ensuring the estate's assets are distributed according to your will

Since virtually all of the duties the personal representative performs are vital to the efficient running of your estate, choosing a competent person is paramount. Unfortunately, many people do not always put much thought into the choice and default to a close family member. Although this may seem like a sound decision, experts say that qualities other than familial status are more important.

What to look for

Overall, experts recommend that you consider the abilities of candidates when choosing a personal representative. Due to the important duties of the position, choosing someone who is trustworthy, mature and honest are obvious. However, in addition, experts recommend considering candidates that have a legal or financial background, as a significant amount of the position entails dealing with bills, accounts and legal documents.

Another quality that every good personal representative possesses is patience. Since the role often requires the personal representative to deal with family members that are hurt or upset about the death and choices regarding the division of the estate, someone with good conflict resolution skills and significant patience is especially well suited.

Finally, every personal representative should ideally be very available. Since the role requires a significant amount of time, your candidate should have a lifestyle that would allow them sufficient time to adequately carry out the duties. Also, it is ideal that you would choose someone living close to you or at least within the same state, as personal representative is not a job that can be done remotely.

Aside from the qualities of your candidates, you should also consider how complex your estate is. If it is very large or has property is other states, it may raise special issues that put the management of it outside the abilities of a layperson. In such cases, it may be best to appoint an attorney experienced with estate administration issues to ensure that it is properly managed.

Speak to an attorney

For additional guidance in choosing a good personal representative, speak with an estate planning attorney. An attorney can walk you though the needs of your estate and offer recommendations as to the type of person that would best be able to fill the role.