The Personal Representative

Getting Started

Should you Serve?

Should your serve as Executor or Personal Representative?

The Cost and the Benefits

It’s been several weeks since the funeral. But grief remains on the hearts of the family members and friends.   Nobody can “prepare” themselves for the death of a loved one.   No one knows quite how they may emotionally feel in the weeks and months that follow. It is a one day at a time process for most of us.

For the named Executor or Personal Representative (PR) they will carry a very heavy burden of responsibilities and duties that will constantly remind them of their loss.   The Executor will need a lot of silent determination and courage to face many issues and circumstances that others will never be aware of.   Certainly it is an honor to be chosen as the Executor of an Estate, but there are heavy costs paid by the Executor.

Cost to the Executor

  • Time
  • Emotional Capital
  • Energy
  • Need for Education
  • Acceptance of the Leadership Role in Family
  • Potential Family Disputes
  • May Require Travel
  • Potential Legal and Financial Liabilities

If you are a recently appointed Executor or PR and a new visitor to our site, now may be a good time to look at a few of tools such as the 9-month Time-line which will give you a broad overview of the timing of tasks you may face.

Some of our materials may be a little intimidating such as Fiduciary Duties and Liabilities.  

Please note that you are not alone in the process. Practical and efficient use of Professionals such as a qualified attorney or accountant (add others) can lessen your load of responsibilities and worries.  

The Personal Representative checklist on our web site, is a detailed general outline of potential duties you may perform.   But all estate are different, make note of unique issues that you face and discuss them with your attorney or other advisors and ask them for guidance.

To Serve or not to Serve? … That is the Question

After you have done a preliminary review of the estate with the aid of a qualified attorney it may make sense to ask yourself do you have the ability, emotional capacity and time to devote to the process?   The Executor / PR can hire attorneys, accountants, trust company's and other "agents" and assign them tasks to perform for a stated fee. Professional service providers can step in and assist in performing many duties, but there will likely be "judgment calls" that in the final analysis can only be made by the Executor or Personal Representative.

The testator (decedent) may have designated the executor many years in the past and circumstances change people move, grow older and health issues arise.   If the burden will be too much for the stated executor, resigning may be the best solution as it will allow the Estate Settlement process to move forward.   In many cases, the testator will name a secondary executor to step in, if the primary executor passes on their appointment. (Please note that if the Executor or Personal Representative are responsible for their actions taken, or not taken until they are replaced).

Also to be considered are there other family members who are better suited to perform the duties of the Personal Representative?  If the named executor resigns and there in not a secondary executor who will serve, the probate court will determine the party best suited to complete the process.   Appointment of a professional Executor is also a prerogative of the court.

All beneficiaries may or may not be 100% satisfied with every action (although it would be nice) that is not the primary duty of the Executor / Personal Representative. The Executors duty is to apply; prudence, loyalty, fairness, reasonable care while being mindful of applicable laws and taxes are the standards by which they will be fairly judged.

Benefits of Serving

There are some real benefits in serving as Executor or Personal Representative of an Estate.

  • The top reward is knowing that your honored the wishes of someone who trusted you with the resources they spent a lifetime to accumulate.
  • A private (non-professional) executor (PR) will likely understand certain issues and special assets better than an outsider.
  • They may have intimate knowledge of their business affairs and know how to maintain and enhance asset values for the benefit of all beneficiaries.
  • The private Executor may also have a greater ability to navigate the waters of family dynamics and calm the seas of a variety of personalities.
  • Reducing the billable hours of an attorney (and other professionals) may be a significant cost savings to the estate.  
  • In addition, the Executor, PR is entitled to be reimbursed for their expenses and compensated reasonably for their duties they have performed. (see state statutes and attorney for details).

Overall the process can be rewarding, educational, and satisfying in an emotional sense, as you performed your duties in honor of your loved one or close friend.