Personal Representative


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Personal Representative

A person who manages the financial affairs of another person who is unable to do so.

A personal representative is one kind of fiduciary—an individual whom another has trusted to manage her property and money. When a person dies, a personal representative generally is required to settle the decedent's financial affairs. In some instances, a living person may need a personal representative; for example, a minor might need a personal representative to make legal decisions for her. Personal representatives can be appointed by a court, nominated by will, or selected by the person involved. Their duties are performed under the supervision of probate courts, which are governed by state law.

When someone dies leaving property, a personal representative is required to administer the decedent's estate, which involves resolving any debts and handling the distribution of property. The jurisdiction, powers, and functions connected with administering the decedent's estate are usually entrusted to special tribunals, known as probate, surrogate, or orphans' courts. These courts supervise the actions of the personal representative.

The choice of a personal representative depends on whether the decedent left a will, the legal document instructing how his estate is to be divided. If the will names a personal representative, that person is called an executor (male or female) or executrix (female). The court will accept the representative unless he does not meet statutory qualifications. These qualifications vary from state to state but largely concern such factors as age and conflict of interest. If there is no legally valid will, the decedent is said to have died intestate. In such cases, the court appoints a personal representative for the decedent's estate. The court-appointed representative is called an administrator (male or female) or administratrix (female).

In special instances, courts appoint one of three types of administrators. They are appointed when (1) an executor cannot or will not serve (administrator cum testamento annexo); (2) a prior executor or administrator has not completed the estate (administrator de bonis non); or (3) an interim administrator (special administrator), given restricted powers over the estate, is needed until a proper legal representative can be found.

Once approved by the court, personal representatives receive official sanction to fulfill their duties. Executors receive documents called letters testamentary—administrators receive letters of administration—authorizing the representative to handle the legal affairs of a decedent. Throughout the process of administering an estate, all personal representatives serve as officers of the court. They derive their authority from the court and thus serve at the court's pleasure. Their authority can be revoked on various grounds, ranging from neglect to incompetence. Primarily, they must act on behalf of all parties and all interests in the estate. They owe the beneficiaries an absolute duty of loyalty, or fiduciary duty, to administer the estate in their best interest.

In general, the personal representatives' duties are to settle and distribute the estate. This complicated task may require the assistance of an attorney or a trust company, so-called coexecutors. The personal representative's first task is to collect and preserve the assets of the estate. The personal representative also oversees the appraisal of the estate's assets, where necessary. The personal representative must also pay the estate's creditors, as well as any Estate and Gift Taxes due under federal law. Finally, the representative sees to the distribution of the remaining estate among the decedent's beneficiaries. If there are no beneficiaries, the state usually receives the property.

Further readings

Graves, Herman S. 2000. "Estate Administrative Expenses And the Personal Representative." Colorado Lawyer 29 (September).

Krier, Kenneth D. 1991."The Attorney as Personal Representative or Trustee." Florida Bar Journal 65 (Janurary).

Ross, Bruce S., and Henry T. Moore, Jr. 1986–1996. California Practice Guide: Probate. The Rutter Group.

Cross-references

Executors and Administrators.

References in periodicals archive ?
When it comes time to assess what is reasonable for the work done, a personal representative must rely on notes and records.
The Parker court is the first Florida decision to hold that a personal representative is not an indispensable party to an action for the return of assets transferred by the decedent during his or her lifetime.
Since the mortgagees failed to name personal representatives for the deceased mortgagors, the circuit court dismissed the complaints for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
The Service stated that fees paid to a nonprofessional executor or personal representative (except in certain circumstances) are not SE because the services are performed on an isolated basis and stem from a personal relationship with the decedent that is not based on particular expertise or special qualities.
The privacy rule allows a health care provider or health plan not to treat a parent as a minor's personal representative, given a reasonable belief that the parent has subjected or may subject the minor to domestic violence, abuse or neglect, or that treating the parent as the personal representative could endanger the minor.
Little, was asked to act as personal representative.
On the Azerbaijani side, the monitoring was held by Ognyen Yovic and Martin Schuster, field assistants of the OSCE chairperson-in-office personal representative.
The message was conveyed by the Personal Representative of HH the Emir HH Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani during a meeting with Russian President's Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow on Saturday.
Muscat, Oct 18 (ONA) Sayyid Asa'ad bin Tariq al-Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs and Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan received in his office today Dr.
HH Personal Representative of HH the Emir Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani, HE Sheikh Jassim bin Khalifa al-Thani, HE Advisory Council Speaker Mohamed bin Mubarak al-Khulaifi, and HE President of Qatar Olympic Committee Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani also attended the inauguration.
22 (BNA): His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa held a telephone call with Shaikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Personal Representative of the Amir of Qatar, and congratulated him on the release of the Qatari citizens who were kidnapped during a hunting trip in Iraq.
1) For the purpose of this section, a client acts as a fiduciary when serving as a personal representative or a trustee as defined in ss.

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