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Factors to Consider When Naming an Individual Personal Representative

Estate Planning Attorneys Ann Arbor

By: Edwin L. Pear, estate planning attorney

Have you decided to have your Will and Estate Plan drafted?  This process involves identifying what assets you have, where they should go, and how they should be given to the recipient, but the most important step is selecting someone to oversee the entire process once you’re gone.  You may select a corporate or an individual. There are important  factors to consider when naming an individual to handle your estate. This person’s title was once executor, but now under Michigan law is referred to as a “Personal Representative.”

The Personal Representative plays a critical role in the management and the distribution of your assets and most likely will be your spouse or a close relative, but it can also be a friend or someone who you have had a business relationship with and who is well suited for the role.  

Some factors you should consider when naming this individual:

1.    Trustworthiness

Because this person will be handling finances and personal affairs, your personal representative should be someone close, honest, and someone you can trust.  Many people select relatives, like their child or spouse, as they may have a deeper understanding of your intentions and personal desire to carry out your wishes. However, where there are internal family conflicts, it is also common for people to choose a trusted friend who isn’t a beneficiary or has no vested interest other than getting through the process and ensuring that everything is distributed according to your wishes.

2.    Responsibility and Availability

The individual selected should understand the importance and length of time required for completion of their role. The individual will be in charge of handling your finances, dealing with creditors, and distributing your assets to the beneficiaries.  The probate process can take months and in some cases, years. The person selected may be required to spend a great deal of time and attention to the task because of the nature of the assets and the personalities involved.

3.    Well-Organized

The individual Personal Representative will be responsible for gathering and identifying all of your assets to make an inventory of your estate, deal with any creditors, be responsible for filing any tax returns, and paying off funeral costs.  The individual must be well organized and keep up with their duties while still managing to take care of their own affairs.

4.    Location

The individual isn’t required to live in Michigan, but you should consider the logistics involved and the extent to which someone located outside of Michigan would be in the best position to handle your estate.

5.    Age and Wellbeing

You should consider the age and health of the prospective Personal Representative in the present as well as in the future when they would likely need to be acting.  You need to remember that as you grow older, so will they.

6.    Agree to Act

It’s important that you get approval from the person you choose as your Personal Representative before naming them as it is vital that the individual understands their responsibility and can commit to the position. It’s also recommended that you consider and name a successor, or even more than one successor, in case your primary choice is unable to meet the demands or be available when it’s time to act.

It’s also important that your Personal Representative or other family members be told where to find your estate planning papers and that you try to keep an updated list of assets. This will allow the Personal Representative to not have to spend unnecessary time and energy locating basic documents and will allow them to administer your estate efficiently and cost effectively.

Our attorneys are very experienced in discussing and assisting in the drafting of estate plan documents. Feel free to contact any of our estate planning attorneys in Ann Arbor to discuss your questions.

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