Troubleshooting Legal Problems

How does a family choose the right representative for an estate?

One of the most controversial decisions during estate administration involves the difficult process of selecting an executor or personal representative for the estate. Many testators perseverate over this decision for weeks, struggling to identify the one person who would fulfill their legacy goals while still being able to manage their personal affairs.

Sometimes, people do not name a personal representative in their estate documents. Other times, the person they chose has since died, become incapacitated or moved away from the area. If your family needs to select someone to suggest to the probate courts for this role, how do you choose the right representative for a loved one’s estate?

Those with less stake in the estate are better choices

If your family has had a chance to review the estate plan or if the deceased individual was always open about their wishes, you may already know who will inherit the most property from the estate. Typically, the best representative is someone who will only benefit from the estate because they receive payment for their services.

Choosing one of the main beneficiaries of the estate can be a mistake, as they have a conflict of interest. They could put their own wishes ahead of the testator’s instructions or the rights of other beneficiaries. Your family should consider not just the likely inheritance of each individual but their relationship to the main beneficiaries and the deceased. Those who may have a personal bias against or toward one of the beneficiaries may not be the best option.

Organization and availability are also important

Probate proceedings can become complex very easily, and it takes an organized and focused individual to make the best of the estate administration process. Someone’s current availability, meaning the flexibility of their schedule and where they live, can influence if they will make a good candidate. Finally, their ability to manage complex matters is also a concern.

Even if your family selects the ideal candidate, the chance always exists at the courts will name someone else, as they will make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries. Thinking about the obligations of estate administration can help your family prepare for upcoming probate matters.