Can you guess what any successful business, large or small, has in common with the seamless and efficient administration of someone’s estate?
The answer is that they both have a capable, responsible, trustworthy person at the helm.
The Importance of a Personal Representative to Your Estate Plan.
When you pass away, someone needs to go through all your belongings, see that your will is properly probated, that your wishes for your estate are carried out, that assets transfer properly and that any bills, debts and taxes get paid. That person, in Arizona, is called your “Personal Representative,” which is also more commonly known as an “executor.” The Personal Representative administers your estate and remains in charge until your estate is legally closed. Depending on the complexity of your estate, that could take years.
The duties of your Personal Representative are critical to the proper administration of your estate. Who you choose to be your Personal Representative can mean the difference between an efficiently administered estate and one that is a legal and financial nightmare.
Bear in mind that most wills have a default provision that allow personal representatives to take account for their time and get paid during the probate process. You of course have a right to disallow that option if you so choose. Moreover, all of the inherent costs related to probating your estate, which could include attorney fees, court fees, county recorder fees, etc., are deducted from your estate. So having you estate administered in an efficient and budget-friendly manner is to your benefit to ensure that those who you wish to pass your estate onto are getting the most benefit of your estate instead of it being disposed of through the process of administration.
That is why it is so important that you consider very carefully who you want to be your Personal Representative. The considerations here strongly mimic those requirements for choosing the right trustee, for those who already have or are interested in creating a a trust.
How to Choose the Right Personal Representative: Some Considerations.
Ultimately, who you decide on is a personal choice. But here are some things you should consider when choosing a Personal Representative.
- Your Personal Representative Should Be Someone You Trust.
Keep in mind that your Personal Representative is in charge of overseeing that your wishes are carried out and that your taxes and bills get paid. This person will have access to all your money and property and will have the same power over it as you wouldexcept that the Personal Representative is supposed to make sure that the property gets used to pay all estate bills and taxes and that it goes to the people you want it to go to. Additionally, your Personal Representative will be responsible for making sure that everything that needs to get done, actually gets done–on time and correctly.
So you want to choose a Personal Representative that you trust implicitly and who you believe is capable of doing the job.
Ideally, you want someone who is trustworthy and not only has good common sense, but is organized, good with paperwork (there will be lots of it), and good with meeting deadlines.
- Choose Someone Who Will Not Cause, or Add to, the Drama.
Very often, clients will choose one of their children to serve as Personal Representative or two of them to serve as co-Personal Representatives together. While in many cases this can be fine, you must carefully consider your own situation and whether this would be your best option.
For example, you should consider whether your child (or children) have the correct temperament. A personal representative should be someone who not only understands your wishes regarding your property, but who understands your beneficiaries and will act in their best interests.
In other words, you don’t want to select two children who do not get along to serve as co-personal representatives.
Because this will only lead to fights, drama, and will contests – all of which serve only to drag out the probate process and deplete your estate with court costs and fees.
If at all possible, try to choose someone that your beneficiaries (those who will get your property and money) see as impartial and fair.
You may need to consider appointing someone outside of the family, like a friend or even a professional if necessary. Just bear in mind that while there are professionals who are willing to assist, there are also fees involved in that process as well.
- Choose Someone Who Will Be Around When the Time Comes.
Another point to consider is the age of your chosen Personal Representative. You want him or her to be around when the time comes for them to administer your estate.
- Local vs. Out of State/Country
Often times testator question whether they can appoint a Personal Representative who is living in another state or even another country. That is never an issue. There is no always a lot of items that require the physical presence of your Personal Represenative. With today’s technology, a lot of items can be handled via fax, email, and scanning.
Furthermore, we develop such strong relationships with our clients, that they often times wish to have our continued involvement in the picture even after their passing. Since we handle ALL practice areas related to estate planning, we are more than happy to assist wherever and whenever we can. We can function as your Personal Representative’s local personnel and assist with any matters that may require a physical presence, if necessary.
So the location of your Personal Representative does not have have to be a factor with regard to the person with whom you feel most comfortable administering your estate.
- Lack of Estate Planning Knowledge is NOT a deal-breaker
Sure you want your Personal Representative to have common sense and be a person who has their ducks in a pretty straight row; however, they do not need to be an expert on estate planning or even on your estate. That is for the professionals to handle, so do not fret if the person(s) you are considering have little to no knowledge about your estate and/or probating a will.
Again, this is where we can help. Due to our extensive estate planning background we are always happy to step in and provide guidance at a reasonable cost to your Personal Representative. In fact, when we produce an Legacy Estate Planning Package for you, we include our contact information and make it easy for your Personal Representative to know that we have a copy of all of your documents on hand and we are at the ready to jump in and assist as necessary.
So have no fears about appointing someone based on their knowledge of your estate.
Need Help Deciding? We are Here for You.
If you need help planning for your future and that of your loved ones, send us an email. We serve all of Arizona and we offer free consultations.