Choosing a suitable person to act as your personal representative

Choosing a good personal representative is almost as important of a decision as the terms of your estate plan.

While you may give a lot of thought to the terms of your will, you may not think as much about whom you would like to serve as personal representative of your estate. However, ensuring that you have the right person in this role is vital to the smooth winding down of your estate after you die, as an unqualified personal representative can significantly raise the likelihood of delays, tax issues and asset mismanagement. If your personal representative is especially not up to the task, it may lead to problems such as will contests and other litigation.

In Colorado, the personal representative has a variety of important duties including:

• Settling estate debts with your creditors

• Locating and taking control of your assets

• Paying all taxes

• Paying estate administration expenses

• Locating your heirs mentioned in your will

• Distributing your assets according to the terms of your estate plan

• Closing the estate

How to chose the right person

Selecting the right person to act as your personal representative is of paramount importance to ensure that the estate is handled in a competent and efficient manner. According to experts, you should keep the following tips in mind when considering candidates for personal representative:

• It is generally better to choose a personal representative based upon their suitability for the role, rather than their relation to you. Since the role can involve complicated issues (especially if the estate is complex), it is helpful for the person to have a legal or financial background if possible.

• Since the probate process can stimulate familial conflict, choose someone who is able to handle conflict well and would not attempt to take advantage of other family members.

• It is important to choose someone who is organized, can follow instructions, is good with dealing with paperwork, and is conscientious of deadlines.

• If your estate is complex, or you do not know of anyone who would make a good personal representative, consider hiring an attorney experienced in probate and estate administration to perform the duties.

Once you have identified a candidate for personal representative, let him or her know of your choice immediately to make sure that they would like to assume this considerable responsibility. Since your original choice may have second thoughts or become unable to fulfill the role, it is also vital to name persons to serve as alternates. After you have found someone willing to perform the role, notify your heirs, so they will know whom to work with after you die.

An attorney can help

As your personal representative can make or break the administration of your estate, it is important to have the practical experience of an estate planning attorney when deciding on a candidate. The attorneys at Chayet & Danzo, LLC have helped many clients with their probate and estate administration issues and can give you the benefit of their years of experience.