Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Is A Personal Reprsentative

Personal Representative is a rather clunky phrase, but it is the legal name of what is more commonly referred to as the "executor" of someones will.  That said, what does he or she do?  The role of the personal representative is to usher an estate through probate.  In more common language, he or she files a person's will with the probate court.  That begins a process during which:

  • creditors are notified of the decedent's death; 
  • the court issues a letter empowering the personal representative (called the domiciliary letter here in Wisconsin) to handle all matters related to the estate (close accounts, sell property, etc.);
  • liabilities are paid (funeral, medical, cell phone, credit card, taxes, etc.);
  • remaining probate assets are distributed according to the terms of the will if there is one or by according to statutory guidelines if there was no will; and
  • the estate is closed.
Often times the PR will hire an attorney to assist with this process, which can take from 12 months to over 2 years.  The attorney's fees are a cost of the estate, meaning the estate plays the attorney's bills not the PR.

When drafting a will it is very important to give thought to who would be a good PR.  I recommend someone that is good with finances, legal matters, is organized, will not be emotionally crippled by your death, and if possible, local.

Photo credit: - free image

The only legal way to nominate a PR is to draft a will, otherwise you are leaving it up to chance as to who will step forward and ask the court to appoint him or her.  Drafting a will is never easy, but keep in mind it allows you to take control in a matter that you probably know best compared to the court.

Blogger note: I am devoting the month of February to definitions of terms common to estate planning.  Enjoy.

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