Whom should I choose to be my personal representative?

When you are in the process of putting together your estate plan, it is too easy to put all your focus on the main issues, such as who is going to get your assets after you die, rather than the finer details. One of such details is choosing someone to be the personal representative of your estate. Although this seems like a less important decision, failing to pick someone with the right qualities can mean that your estate is mismanaged or becomes subject to probate litigation after your death.

Choosing a competent person to act as personal representative is important primarily because the role involves several duties vital to the efficient running of the estate. In Colorado, these duties include:

• Identifying and gathering the assets of your estate

• Managing and protecting your assets

• Notifying your creditors and paying your bills

• Ensuring estate and income taxes are paid

• Making sure that your assets are distributed according to the terms of your will

Unfortunately, when faced with the choice of personal representative, many people default to a family member without putting much effort into the choice. Although choosing a family member may seem like a good idea, experts recommend basing the choice on the qualities of the candidate, rather than their relation to you.

What makes a good personal representative?

Obviously, the important nature of the role requires you to choose someone that is mature, honest and trustworthy. However, beyond this evidence of good character, it is important for your candidate to have certain skills. In particular, since a good portion of the role involves dealing with legal documents and bills, someone that has a legal or financial background can be especially helpful.

Other good qualities for your candidate to have are patience and skill with dealing with conflict. Your personal representative will deal with family members that are upset about your death and potentially may be hurt by how you chose to divide your estate. Because of this, someone with a calm demeanor and who can be trusted to treat all your beneficiaries equally is especially suited for the role.

Finally, a good personal representative is available to perform the role. Since the role can require a fairly large time commitment, your candidate for personal representative should have a lifestyle that would allow them to be free to perform the duties. It is especially helpful if the candidate lives nearby, as the work may be difficult to perform remotely.

If you have a very large or complex estate, or you own property out-of-state, the personal representative will likely face complicated issues that are outside his or her scope of knowledge. In such cases, it may be better to appoint an attorney experienced in estate administration issues, to ensure that your estate encounters no problems.

An attorney can help

When you are in the process of planning your estate, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can assess the unique needs of your estate and advise you further on the type of personal representative you would need to successfully carry out your wishes.