A crucial part of estate planning is choosing who will be the personal representative of your estate when the time comes. Your personal representative will be in charge of passing your estate through probate, settling any outstanding debts and distributing your assets. It is an important job; you are trusting this person to handle your final affairs the way you want them taken care of.
With that said, whom should you pick as your personal representative? It is ultimately up to you and depends on your particular circumstances. However, here are a few guidelines:
- Common sense. Someone with a lot of business expertise can be good, but generally, you just need someone with a decent head for finances, forms and deadlines
- Good health. You should choose someone who is young enough and in good enough health that they will be around and able to handle settling your estate after your death
- Someone you can trust. Your personal representative should be someone you know will act according to your wishes and in the best interests of your heirs
- Double-check every few years. The person you chose could no longer be someone you want managing your estate, such as a member of your ex-spouse’s family, or a friend you are now estranged from
If your estate plan includes a will, you will also need someone to serve as trustee. This is a different task that finalizing your estate, and your trustee can be a different person than your personal representative.
In the end, it is up to you, but you do not have to choose alone if you retain an estate planning attorney to help you. Your lawyer can offer advice and guide you toward a wise choice as part of your overall plan.