Drafting a will is a significant step in ensuring your wishes are carried out after you’ve gone. However, a crucial step of this process is often overlooked: choosing the right person to serve as your personal representative. Your personal representative will be responsible for managing your estate, distributing your assets, and handling affairs according to your instructions. It’s essential to choose someone who is not only trustworthy but also capable of handling the responsibilities that come with this role. Here are five characteristics to consider when choosing your own personal representative: 

  1. Trustworthiness and Integrity: Above all, your personal representative should be someone you trust implicitly. This individual will have access to sensitive information about your finances, assets, and beneficiaries. Look for someone with a track record of responsible and ethical behavior, as well as a clear understanding of the importance of confidentiality. In other words, don’t choose the neighborhood gossip or a new friend that you haven’t had time to vet yet. 
  2. Organizational Skills and Attention to Detail: Administering an estate can involve complex tasks, including inventorying assets, paying debts, and distributing personal property. Therefore, it’s important to choose a personal representative who is well-organized and pays close attention to detail. They should be able to manage paperwork efficiently, keep accurate records, and follow the legal procedures required for probate and estate administration. Do you have a close friend with a color-coded appointment book who never misses a deadline? You might consider her for this role! 
  3. Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Effective communication is key to successfully fulfilling the role of a personal representative. Your chosen representative should be able to communicate clearly and compassionately with beneficiaries, creditors, and other parties involved in the estate administration process. They may need to mediate disputes, provide updates on the progress of the estate, and answer questions from interested parties with tact and professionalism.
  4. Financial Literacy and Sound Judgment: This is not the job for your cousin who still doesn’t know how to manage his bank account. Managing an estate involves making financial decisions that can have significant implications for beneficiaries. Your personal representative should have a basic understanding of financial matters and be capable of exercising sound judgment when handling assets and investments. They may need to consult with financial professionals or legal advisors, so the ability to assess and act on expert advice is also essential.  
  5. Availability and Commitment: This might be the most important trait. Settling an estate can be a time-consuming process requiring ongoing attention and effort. It’s essential to choose a personal representative who is willing and able to dedicate the necessary time and energy to fulfill their duties. Consider whether the individual has other significant commitments or obligations that might conflict with their responsibilities as your personal representative. You might have a very responsible friend who is already working 80+ hours a week at a high-pressure job. This probably isn’t the role for her. 

Selecting the right personal representative for your estate is a decision not to be taken lightly. Don’t rush this decision, and then after you’ve made your choice, communicate openly with the selected individual. With the right person in place, you can have confidence that your final wishes will be carried out with care and diligence. 

The attorneys at Schromen Law, LLC can help you talk through your options at a free estate planning consultation. Contact our office to schedule that meeting today! 

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader.  The views expressed in this article are not a statement of support or endorsement by Schromen Law, LLC.  The information contained herein is not offered as legal or medical advice and should not be construed as legal or medical advice.


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