A key decision when writing a will is the choice of who will serve as the personal representative of your estate after your death. The role of the personal representative – also called an executor – is to administer your estate, including wrapping up your legal and financial affairs, paying bills and taxes, settling disputes, gathering and inventorying your assets, transferring property and more, all through the probate process in state court.
Under Colorado law, a personal representative must be of sound mind and over 20 years old. It is also a good idea to choose at least one successor personal representative who could serve if your primary personal representative is unable or unwilling to do so.
Personal or professional?
Will you choose a relative, like your spouse or adult child, or a trusted friend, or does it make more sense to go the route of a professional to serve? If your estate is large or has complex assets like business interests or unique investments, a professional may have more experience and familiarity with the nature of your property.
Professionals who may be available for this role include lawyers, bank trust departments, fiduciary service firms or others.
Or, you may be more comfortable with a person from your life taking on this role. The amount of experience the person has with estates or similar matters as well as the person’s capability and availability are factors to weigh. Consider, too, whether the potential personal representative might cause conflict within your family.
A personal representative has fiduciary duties
In addition, a personal representative is a fiduciary, meaning someone with legal responsibilities toward others that require loyalty, honesty and diligence, so those qualities should be top of mind in making your choice, as well.
Open communication with a potential personal representative
It is important to speak to anyone you are considering naming about their willingness to serve, which may involve sharing details about your estate so that they can make an informed decision. Of course, the personal representative is likely to retain legal counsel to help guide them through their responsibilities, including detailed notice and filing responsibilities related to probate.
Size of the estate a factor
The size of the estate also has some impact on the choice. A personal representative may be reasonably compensated from the estate assets. Sometimes a family member or friend will waive any right to compensation, but a professional retained to serve would likely charge market rates of the estate. In addition, the estate assets would also pay the legal fees of the personal representative as needed for guidance in carrying out their responsibilities.