What is a Personal Representative?

Personal Representative, referred to as an Executor/Executrix or Administrator in some jurisdictions as well, is the fiduciary whom is put in charge of settling a deceased person’s estate, once the person passes away.

Personal Representatives in Testate Estates;

If the deceased had a Last Will and a Testament, in most cases, the person or entity named to be the Personal Representative in the Last Will will be appointed to serve by the probate judge, in probate court. Exceptions are made when the person or entity named legally is not allowed to serve, or if there is a successful will contest that invalidates the Last known Will or disqualifies the named Personal Representative within the Will.

Why would the person or entity named to serve as Personal Representative in the Last Will not legally be allowed to serve? Because that person or entity does not meet all the legal criteria, under the applicable state law. For example, a minor or convicted felon can’t serve, a bank or trust company that doesn’t have fiduciary powers in the state where the probate is taking place can’t serve, and in Florida a person can’t serve as a Personal Representative unless he or she is related to the decedent by blood or marriage & if not, then a Florida resident.

Personal Representatives in Intestate Estates;

If the deceased didn’t have a Last Will & Testament, then the intestacy laws of the state where the decedent lived at the time of death will determine who has priority to serve as the Estate’s Personal Representative; first a surviving spouse, if there are any; then a surviving child or children, if there are any; then a surviving parent, if there are any; then a surviving sibling or siblings, if any exist at all; then a surviving niece or nephew, if any can be found.

What happens if more than one person have priority to serve as the Personal Representative, such as two or more children or two or more siblings? If the heirs at law agree on who should serve as the Personal Representative, then the probate judge will most likely appoint that person. But if the heirs at law don’t agree, then it will be left up to the probate judge to choose the Personal Representative of the deceased Estate.