From a legal standpoint, an estate personal representative in California may be any person who is at least 18 years old, has the proper mental capacity, and who is willing and able to fulfill the obligations of the role. To minimize conflict during the administration process, it’s important to choose the right person to act as the estate personal representative.
Read over the following important considerations before making your decision.
The Ideal Estate Personal Representative
The person you known as the estate personal representative does not necessarily need to be related to you. However, there are some considerations that could make the decision process easier.
The location of the estate personal representative. The California probate process is often easier to get through if the named representative lives in the same city as the deceased. This is about practicality. It makes it easier for the representative to find and access necessary records related to the estate (records related to assets and even beneficiaries).
Trustworthy and careful with money. The estate personal representative is fiduciary. That is, someone who has a special relationship with the estate, its beneficiaries, and the court. This relationship relies on trust. Choose someone who knows how to handle money and who will be honest with the court and beneficiaries. There are several financial and asset-based reports (as well as the possibility of handling trusts or the need to have certain assets valued) that must be presented to the probate court.
A good relationship with the family. Death and probate are stressful on the family left behind. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s any easier on the estate personal representative. The person chosen to act as the representative should be able to communicate with and get along with beneficiaries and heirs (regardless of whether they are directly related to the deceased) even if there are negative feelings involved. If you cannot think of anyone who would be able to make the process as easy as possible, consider using a professional corporation that provides this service.
The ability to keep proper and complete records. Because there are several reports that must be provided to the court, the estate personal representative must be able to keep proper and complete records. The representative must be able to account for all funds (and other assets) belonging to the estate.
Comfortable seeking professional advice. Depending on the estate’s size, there may be a need for the estate personal representative to ask for professional advice from a lawyer, CPA, or appraiser. Choose someone who is comfortable seeking the professional advice that is sometimes required by the California probate court.
Choosing the right estate personal representative is no easy task. You may want to talk with your potential representatives to determine how they feel about the process before naming them. This is also part of an estate plan that should be reviewed and changed as necessary to keep up with your needs and desires.