A personal representative is a fiduciary who can be appointed in a will or otherwise selected by a court. A personal representative is responsible after a person’s death for initiating and overseeing the probate or intestacy proceedings for the estate of the decedent , including gathering the decedent’s assets, sending notices to the decedent’s creditors, paying or otherwise settling the decedent’s debts that are properly claimed, and distributing the decedent’s probate assets to beneficiaries.
A personal representative is in charge of handling the legal and financial affairs of the decedent’s estate, which means he or she may have to manage any income the estate is still generating, sell the estate’s real estate and vehicles, track down the decedent’s distant family members, and similar activities. A personal representative will also make decisions for the estate in connection with any will contests. These duties will occupy a personal representative for several months, possibly even a year or more. A personal representative may need or want to hire an attorney, an accountant, and other professionals to assist with these duties, which he or she may do at the expense of the estate.
A personal representative owes his or her duties to the estate and the decedent’s beneficiaries. He or she may also owe duties to others, such as the estate’s creditors.
In the State of Washington, any person is eligible to be a personal representative unless that person is a minor, a person of unsound mind, or a person who has been convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude, such as fraud or theft.1 If a person who does not reside in Washington becomes a personal representative, he or she will be required to file a bond approved by the probate court and appoint an agent who resides in the county where the probate is taking place who can receive service of legal paperwork on the nonresident personal representative’s behalf.
A personal representative, when appointed in a will, is also sometimes called an executor or executrix. The term “executor” can refer to a person of any gender, whereas the term “executrix” refers specifically to a female personal representative. A personal representative who is not named in a will, or who is appointed in intestacy proceedings, is also called an administrator.
Frequently Asked Questions about Personal Representatives
There is also the possibility that the person named in the will to serve as personal representative will decline the role. If that is the case, the surviving spouse or partner (or someone else) can petition the court to get appointed.