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Legal Planning

Wills and Estate Planning

Who should I appoint to be the personal representative of my estate?

Generally, a personal representative is the person responsible for managing the assets, paying the debts, collecting any money owing, paying expenses of, and filing tax returns as required, of a testator’s estate.

Spouses usually appoint each other as the personal representative. Most attorneys advise listing a second and third choice to avoid unnecessary court costs to appoint a successor personal representative in the event that the first choice is unable or unwilling to serve as personal representative.

Practically speaking, the person that you choose for this position should:
- Agree to accept the position
- Be honest
- Possess common sense and good judgment
- Be financially responsible
- Be located geographically close to the estate

Of course, a personal representative can and most likely should, avail themselves of the services of a probate attorney who can assist greatly during the probate process. Even so, you will want to choose someone who can perform the specific duties of the personal representative. These duties include:
- Getting the process started after the death of the testator
- Notifying heirs or beneficiaries of the estate proceedings,
- Creating an inventory of all of the estate assets, preserving them and managing them within the limitations established by the will
- Organizing and paying the debts of the testator’s creditors out of the estate assets (within the statutory requirements of the state)
- Filing the testator’s final income tax return and estate tax returns and pay taxes out of the estate assets
- If property remains after the debts are paid, distributes it to the appropriate heirs or beneficiaries
- Acting within Minnesota Statutes regarding the transactions authorized for personal representatives

Before naming anyone to this position, ask them if they would be willing to accept the position. If a person is unwilling, they may decline to take on the responsibility and the court will have to appoint someone else. It’s much more desirable to have that control yourself than to leave it to the court. It’s a good idea to include at least one alternate, and have a similar discussion with that person.

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