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Choosing a Personal Representative: Time to Buck Tradition?


Traditionally, the oldest child is tapped as the personal representative for the estate of aging parents. Is that always best?

Sometimes Traditions Get In Our Way

2020 continues to be a year of learning that some past norms may are not useful now. It’s likely that your family has already been re-inventing lots of traditions, even if difficult, such as how to celebrate holidays.

As you make or update your will and designate someone to manage your affairs when you die, consider bypassing traditions that may not ultimately best serve you or your family.  AARP offers this guidance:

Many people still feel that they should name the oldest child — maybe even the oldest male child — as executor of the will and the agent to oversee their health care and money. It’s often a recipe for disaster, says Gary Bauer, professor emeritus at Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University. Select your agents based upon their ability to manage your affairs, not birth order,” he says. Who’s the most organized and responsible? Who lives closest? Is there a natural leader, most likely to handle any conflict that arises later? And don’t be afraid to split duties. Someone making end-of-life decisions has a very different role than someone distributing property after someone has passed,” he says.

It’s best for your designee to have the needed skills—and ability to be clear-headed—upon your death. It may be that an oldest child is perfectly suited (even if he is a bit of a mad scientist). Or, it may be that your gut points you to your best friend’s daughter, with her extensive management skills. Most likely, everyone concerned will understand your rationale (and may even be relieved) —as long as you don’t procrastinate and take the time to communicate your intentions.

Duties of A Personal Representative: Some Examples

LegalZoom offers this example about some of the duties that may ultimately be required by your personal representative:

After the will is admitted to probate, the personal representative will be required to give notice to any creditor you may have at the time of your death. Notice is also published in a newspaper. As soon as the notice is given, the clock starts ticking and the creditors only have a limited period of time during which to contact the personal representative and formally file a claim for payment against the estate.

Worth Considering: Personal Representative Bond

Personal Representative Bonds are often required by probate courts to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law.

Generally,  as a will is prepared, and a personal representative designated, the bonding requirement is waived. This is another tradition you might find helpful to pause and ponder. For example, consider the confidence all the beneficiaries will have, knowing that the personal representative you have designated is bonded.

Colonial Surety Company is a leading national provider of personal representative bonds, (as well as estate, probate, fiduciary, and administrator bonds). Licensed in all 50 states and U.S. territories, Colonial makes it easy to obtain these bonds, instantly, directly, online—and affordably. The steps are easy—get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from your home or office. It’s that simple. Obtain a Personal Representative Bond Here.