Questions to ask before agreeing to be a personal representative

Managing the financial and legal affairs of a loved one who has passed away requires plenty of free time, patience and organizational skills. Gathering assets, settling business matters, paying debts, filing tax returns and distributing assets are complex. It is vital for you to be ready for this role.

If a relative or friend asks you to serve as the personal representative, or executor, of an estate, you may feel a sense of urgency to agree. But it is important to understand the whole picture of this role and feel capable before you say yes. 

Do you have enough time?

Serving as a personal representative will take up a lot of your time for at least several weeks. But the probate process can end up lasting for months or even years in complicated situations. Your duties will include organizing paperwork, faxing documents, consulting with experts, valuing assets, making phone calls and making trips to the courthouse. Make sure you have enough room in your schedule to handle this responsibility. 

Do you have the patience?

In order to be a successful executor, you should be level-headed and calm. This can be difficult when you encounter a wide variety of personalities and family conflicts. You may face beneficiaries who do not approve of your position or how you distribute the assets. But if you are confident in your temperament and your ability to be transparent, you may be able to handle the role.

Do you possess the skills?

Being a personal representative requires you to be an excellent organizer. You will need to keep documentation of every action you take. If you have trouble organizing financial information or do not like paying attention to detail, you may reconsider saying yes to the job. 

While these questions may help steer you toward the right decision, it is important to remember that there is never a perfect executor. If you feel compelled to take on the job or not, it is ultimately up to you.