In your Minnesota will, you are given the opportunity to name who you want to be your personal representative — that is, the person in charge of your estate after you die. Given the serious responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of a personal representative, the choice is one that often requires a great deal of thought.
The following is a discussion of some important traits to look for when choosing a personal representative. Ask a Minnesota probate lawyer.
What is a Minnesota probate personal representative?
A person named to administer an estate used to be called an executor or executrix. Now the term most often used is personal representative, regardless of whether that person is named in a will or is appointed because there was no will. No matter what they’re called, they all have the same purpose – to carry out the wishes of the decedent regarding distribution of his or her assets, and to complete the decedent’s business, such as paying bills and filing tax returns. It’s not an easy job and it will be best for everyone if you give some thought today to who would be the best person to handle this for you after you are gone.
What qualities should you look for?
It probably goes without saying that personal representatives are an essential component of a proper functioning Minnesota estate plan. Given the many critical responsibilities they have and how much time is required, it’s crucial that the person you choose to serve as your personal representative is up to the task. The following are some qualities you should look for in a personal representative.
First, loyalty. You’re selecting someone to carry out your last wishes so it’s essential the person is someone you trust to do as you ask. It’s also critical that the person be fair and treat your heirs evenhandedly. You should only select someone who you believe will implement your plan without bias, any preferential treatment could spark challenges by heirs who worry they will be cut out of their rightful inheritance. Trustworthiness is also essential given the often large amounts of money the personal representative will be required to handle and distribute to others.
Choosing someone who is organized would also serve as a big benefit given the complexity of some of the tasks a personal representative will face. Keeping track of paperwork and deadlines requires a certain amount of organizational abilities after all. Finally, you want someone with a little bit of backbone. Though you’d hate to think your heirs would be unfairly greedy, it does happen. You want a personal representative who can stand up to pushy heirs as well as the mind-numbing bureaucracies they will face in probate court.
Other considerations for a Minnesota probate personal representative
Age is another consideration when naming a personal representative. Generally, it makes sense to name someone younger than yourself given that statistically there’s a greater chance that an older personal representative will have predeceased you. There are, however, many exceptions to this general rule, for instance if you want to name your spouse or if you are suffering from a disease that will likely end your life earlier than normal. If you do choose someone older than you, ensure that you name an alternate personal representative who is younger and be prepared to update your document if they pass away or become incapacitated.
Finally, though it’s not mandatory, choosing someone with spare time and money also tends to make the process easier. Given the work that’s involved in serving as a personal representative, you would not want to choose someone who is unable or unwilling to make the phone calls, file the paperwork and the read the documents that are a necessary part of the job. Though having some money of their own is certainly not a requirement, it would not be a good idea to choose someone who is struggling to make ends meet. After all, if the person is unable to manage their own finances, why on earth would you want them managing yours?
Though it may be intimidating at first, the probate process does not have to be a scary one. An experienced Minnesota estate-planning lawyer can help walk you through the probate process, answering questions along the way. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 360-4721.
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