Your choice personal representative may be the most important decision you make in your will. A personal representative manages the affairs of the decedent after they die. This includes paying debts and taxes, creating an inventory of assets and other paperwork, gathering and distributing property, communicating with relatives, and hiring any professionals that are needed. (In other states this role is called the “executor,” in Maryland it is called the “personal representative.”)
Who should you choose as your personal representative? It depends on your circumstances and who is available. Here are some factors to consider in making your decision.
Your personal representative should be comfortable with all that comes with the job: managing money, filing paperwork, and cooperating with different family members. The last point could be a problem in some family dynamics. If your brother and your sister can’t stand each other, neither may be a good choice. It might be better to use a third-party that everyone can tolerate and trust.
For most married couples, the best choice for personal representative will be each other. For some, especially blended families, another choice might be best. If you think that your spouse wouldn’t be the best choice, communicate that with them now, so there is no resentment and surprise later.
Give just as much thought to the alternate personal representative. This person will take over the role if the first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.
Your choices aren’t limited to family members. Professionals, like lawyers or even banks, can serve. This can be a good option if you want a neutral third-party in charge. Although most family members will waive payment, a professional will not. Any personal representative is entitled to “reasonable compensation;” money that will come out of your estate.
It’s best to choose a person living in Maryland. If you chose someone who lives outside of Maryland, you will need to appoint a resident agent who is able to accept service of process. If you move outside of Maryland, you may want to reconsider your choice of personal representative.
Choosing the right personal representative is a key part of an effective estate plan. Talk with your lawyer to make an informed decision.
Montefusco Estate Planning, LLC is an estate planning law firm in Frederick, MD. If you are interested in our services, contact us today. This information is written for the context of Maryland estate planning but is not legal advice for anyone. For more information, read our disclaimer.