It can be as important to choose the right person to handle estate administration as it is to put together an estate plan that reflects someone’s values and closest relationships accurately. An executor, referred to in Wisconsin probate statutes as the personal representative of an estate, is required to fulfill many important responsibilities.
It is their job to communicate with the courts and the deceased’s creditors. They need to secure, manage and distribute assets from the estate. Their role is, therefore, crucial to successful estate administration. The three tips below can increase someone’s chances of selecting the right candidate to serve as the representative of their estate.
Consider someone’s age
Investing hours into the process of selecting an executor could go to waste if the party chosen is unlikely to outlive the testator. Generally, it is best to choose a personal representative who should survive for several decades longer than the testator. Considering someone’s age can help avoid scenarios in which the representative dies before the testator, forcing a revision of the estate.
Think about organizational skills and other obligations
The personal representative of an estate will need to balance their daily life with the rigors of probate administration. They will need to make time for court and have the ability to balance their household obligations with the needs of the estate that they must administer. It takes quite a bit of organization to continue to manage one’s own life in addition to the estate of another person. The degree of personal responsibility an individual has, including the number of children in their household and the demands of their career, can also influence whether or not they would be a good choice to serve as personal representative.
Review family relationships carefully
A testator needs to be able to trust that the person they name as the representative of their estate will follow their wishes and state law. Someone who has a history of stealing or addiction, for example, may not be the best choice as they may find the resources included in the estate too tempting. Not only will someone’s personal ethics influence whether or not they can properly manage estate administration, but the relationships they have with the different beneficiaries of the estate can also influence whether or not they are the right candidate. Someone who cannot set aside their personal vindictiveness may intentionally withhold assets from one individual or unfairly divide property for the benefit of others.
Ideally, the candidate someone chooses will be young enough to outlive the testator, responsible enough to manage the obligations involved and ethical enough to put the wishes of the testator ahead of their own. Selecting the right executor or personal representative can be one of the most important steps someone takes when planning their estate.