June 22, 2020

Selecting a Personal Representative

The nomination of a Personal Representative is an important part of one’s Last Will and Testament. Here are some factors to consider.

Choosing a Personal Representative and your back-up, or successor Personal Representatives can be an overwhelming experience. Frequently, clients ask for advice when it comes time to make this decision. Here are some considerations I offer:

(1) Someone you trust. Your Personal Representative will be responsible for carrying out your wishes, as stated in your Last Will and Testament. Additionally, your Personal Representative will hire an attorney if your estate must go through Probate. They will pay your debts (according to any instructions from the Probate court), file your estate’s taxes, and distribute your property to the appropriate heirs.

(2) Someone responsible. As mentioned above, being a Personal Representative can be a tremendous job with plenty of moving parts. Clients frequently have sentimental preferences when picking a Personal Representative. It is understandable to want to choose someone close to you (and often it is advisable). Still, I would caution against letting sentiment be the only factor.

(3) Someone younger than you. Your primary Personal Representative and your back-up Personal Representatives don’t all need to be younger than you. However, if you name your spouse (assuming a similar age) and your three older siblings, statistically, you may end up without a viable nominee. I tell clients that it is best to have a least one or two of your back-ups be substantially younger than you (or if that is not an option, then create a relatively long list of back-ups).

(4) An in-state resident. This criterion is less firm than those previously stated, but I believe it is worth mentioning. In Missouri, if your Personal Representative is a resident of another state, they will likely be required to appoint a local designated agent to handle certain matters. This requirement is by no means a deal-breaker, but all factors being the same, out-of-state Personal Representatives will have a few additional hoops to jump through.


This article represents the opinion of the author and is intended for educational purposes. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. One should always consult with an experienced attorney before making estate planning decisions.

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