Personal Representatives of an Estate: The Ultimate Guide

How to choose representatives for your Last Will, Power of Attorney, and Medical Power of Attorney

Why should I choose personal representatives?

Choosing who will represent you when you pass away or become incapacitated is one of the most important aspects of estate planning. When creating your Last Will and Testament, Medical Power of Attorney, and Power of Attorney, you must select individuals to act on your behalf to protect your interests. With each of your estate documents, the person you appoint has a different title.
Executor: The representative for your Last Will
Agent or attorney-in-fact: The representative for your Power of Attorney
Health care proxy: The representative for your Medical Power of Attorney
Your representative speaks for you when you are no longer able to do so for yourself. Therefore, you should think seriously about who could take on the responsibility of managing your affairs successfully.

Consider your options

Personality traits are important to consider. While your personal representative does not have to be a professional, choose someone who can make difficult decisions in stressful or unpleasant situations. Often, successful personal representatives are people who:
  • Are detail-oriented, organized, responsible, and reliable
  • Have experience with filing paperwork and documents
  • Are comfortable handling sensitive and difficult decisions
  • Are comfortable with accounting, or have a financial background
  • Have previous experience as a personal representative
Choosing a representative who is mature and trustworthy benefits everyone involved in your estate plans. You’ll save your family members from unnecessary stress and conflict by choosing the right person.
It’s beneficial to choose someone who lives close to you as your representative. They will be able to manage your affairs and distribute your assets with less hassle than someone who is from another state, province, or country.

Consider the legal requirements

When choosing representatives for any of your estate plans, be sure that they are legally able to represent you. Anyone who represents you must:
  • Be the age of majority
  • Be of sound mind
  • Not be a felon
  • Be willing to act as your representative
  • Depending on your local laws, live in the same region as you

Consider hiring a professional representative

If you are having trouble choosing a personal representative for your estate plans or do not have a suitable candidate, you can enlist a professional personal representative: a trust company, bank, law firm, attorney, accountant or financial advisor.
While you have to pay for their services, their experience in estate administration can be beneficial, especially if your estate plans are complicated.
Alternatively, your chosen executor may hire a professional to take on some or all of the responsibilities if they don’t have the time or skills to complete their tasks.
Ready to choose your representatives?

Select your representatives

Last Will and Testament
You need to choose at least one representative (executor) when creating your Last Will and Testament. Your executor distributes your assets, closes your accounts, files your taxes, and wraps up your financial affairs after you have passed away. They may also need to navigate sensitive family matters while loved ones are grieving.
You may appoint more than one executor if you think multiple people will be able to work well together. In the case of more than one executor, your representatives are called co-executors. If you do not create a Last Will and Testament, the court will appoint an estate representative upon your death.
Avoid choosing a business partner or even a beneficiary to be your executor, if possible. Choose a third party who won’t benefit from your Last Will. This helps ensure that all beneficiary interests are equally prioritized.
Power of Attorney
Use a Power of Attorney to appoint a representative to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. The representative you appoint is called your agent or attorney-in-fact. Your agent can make financial, business, real estate, and other decisions on your behalf while you are unable to do so.
When creating your Power of Attorney, you will need to list at least one agent but you may choose more. You can also designate separate agents to act for you in different aspects of your financial life. For example, you may choose one person to execute your real estate affairs and another to make business decisions on your behalf.
Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document used to name a representative to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. The representative you appoint is called your health care proxy.
Your health care proxy should not be any of the following individuals:
  • The health care provider treating you (doctor, specialist)
  • A non-relative employee of your health care provider
  • An operator or non-relative employee of a community care facility

Discuss your choice with your loved ones

Whether you select a family member, friend, or professional, talk to your loved ones about your personal representatives and why you chose them. In sensitive matters, such as estate and life planning, transparency helps to limit future conflict.

Next steps

After a personal representative has accepted the position, keep them up to date on any changes you make to your estate plans. Provide copies of your Last Will and Testament, Medical Power of Attorney, and Power of Attorney to the corresponding representative and let them know where to find all other important documents. Also, ensure the executor of your Will has the contact information for your beneficiaries.
Maintaining a stable relationship and communicating clearly with your personal representatives helps them to understand your wishes and feel confident acting in your place. Remember to:
  • Be organized
  • Communicate clearly
  • Be honest
  • Keep your representatives informed
  • Be understanding
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