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 ?
After the filing of a caveat by an interested person other than a creditor, the court must not admit a will of the decedent to probate or appoint a personal representative without service of formal notice on the caveator or the caveator's designated agent.
For estates of decedents who died prior to January 1, 2005, a personal representative is required to file form F-706 with the department if the personal representative was required to file IRS form 706 or 706-NA with the IRS.
Johnson argued that since she had brought suit within one year of the date of her appointment and qualification as the personal representative of the decedent's estate, she was well within that one year period.
Generally, nonprofessional fiduciaries (that is, for example, persons who serve as executor or administrator in isolated instances, and then as personal representative for the estate, of a deceased friend or relative) will not be treated as receiving income from a trade or business unless all of the following conditions are met:
Your HIPAA personal representative cannot make medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself.
Provisions that are specific to unemancipated minors determine whether a parent who is not the minor's personal representative under the rule may have access to the minor's protected health information.
Answer: The cross/double agreement gives the surviving owners the option to purchase the deceased owner's interest in your business and the personal representative (usually the spouse) of the deceased to sell to the surviving owners.
A single parent must first consider naming a Personal Representative of the estate.
With a will, all you need to do is make a claim against it, and the personal representative has to investigate that claim," he explains.
Libertus is also a rare detective, who has been hired by a wealthy patron, Septimus, the provincial governor's personal representative, to investigate the murder of a retired centurion, Germanicus.
It is necessary (for the G-8) to create a mechanism for supervising" policy on information technology, said Nogami, who is the personal representative of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in preparing for the G-8 summit.
The personal representative of an estate, responsible for administering a decedent's financial affairs, often has no knowledge of tax issues.

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