I’m Named as a Personal Representative. What Does that Mean?

agony.jpgMany people face a very difficult situation when a loved one passes away. They often deal with grief, loneliness, and sometimes anger. Unfortunately, the process of managing and distributing that person’s estate and assets doesn’t make the situation any easier.

This can be especially true if you are surprised to learn you’ve been named as the personal representative (or the executor) of the estate. In this role, you will have responsibilities that other people will not. Whether you are surprised by this news, or have had time to prepare, it is important to understand rights and obligations of the role so you can make it easier on yourself and the other people affected by the person’s passing.

What does the personal representative do?

As noted in Minnesota statutes, a personal representative will settle and distribute a person’s estate. This typically includes:

  • Notifying heirs
  • Notifying creditors
  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Locating and securing assets
  • Paying bills
  • Distributing property and money to intended beneficiaries

What types of complications could arise?

Unfortunately, complications can arise during the administration of an estate. A personal representative may struggle with the logistical details of the role, from tracking down assets to completing paperwork on time.

Disputes could also arise between beneficiaries who may take issue with the decisions you are making, or even the distribution decisions of the decedent. Often, these disputes originate from personal conflicts with you or with the deceased, which means they can be highly emotional and contentious.

Often, diligence, familiarity with the process, and legal support can help people avoid such disputes or resolve them more quickly.

What can I do to protect myself and the estate?

To protect yourself and the estate, it can be helpful to discuss the expectations of this role with the person assigning you to it before he or she passes away. Discuss any hesitations you might have or concerns regarding his or her wishes.

Parties can also consult an experienced estate planning attorney. With legal guidance, it can be possible to avoid costly missteps and ensure the estate administration process goes more smoothly.