Personal Representatives


What is a personal representative?

When a person dies, state law establishes legal procedures for settling the deceased person’s estate. This process is called probate. If the person had a will, someone may have been named in the will to serve as personal representative. A personal representative is the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate. In some states, the terms executor or administrator are used in place of personal representative. If no personal representative is specified by will or if the person dies intestate (without a will), the probate court will appoint someone to serve as personal representative.

Who can serve as a personal representative?

Generally, anyone over the age of 18 can serve as a personal representative. It can be the surviving spouse, a family member, a friend, an attorney, or a corporate entity such as a bank or trust company. The personal representative might be required to post a bond to assure performance of the duties of a personal representative.

What are the personal representative’s responsibilities?

The role of the personal representative is to settle and distribute the deceased person’s assets. The personal representative locates, values, and manages the deceased person’s assets during the process of probate. The personal representative has responsibility for paying any debts or taxes owed by the estate and for settling any claims against the estate. After the debts and expenses have been paid, the personal representative distributes the remaining assets to the persons named in the will. If there is no will, the remaining assets are distributed according to the state’s law of descent and distribution.

What compensation is paid to the personal representative?

Personal representatives are paid reasonable compensation for their services. The amount of compensation is provided by law. Generally, personal representatives are allowed commissions on the amount of all the personal estate received and accounted for by them and on the proceeds of the sale of any real estate. For example, in Montana, the personal representative is entitled to a fee of up to three percent of the first $40,000 of the value of the estate (as reported on the federal estate tax return), and up to two percent of the value of the estate in excess of $40,000. The court may allow additional compensation if the personal representative performs extraordinary services.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.