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What is a personal representative?

23rd January 2017

The term ‘personal representative’ is a generic term that applies both to an executor of a will and a court-appointed estate administrator — but what exactly does being a personal representative entail?

In short, the Administration of Estates Act of 1925 defines the role of a deceased’s personal representative as having a duty to collect and ‘get in’ the real and personal estate of the deceased, and administer it according to law.

There is no obligation to appoint a legal professional as your personal representative, although employing the services of a solicitor for at least some aspects of administering your estate can bring you reassurance and peace of mind, as well as making the task less daunting for any family members involved.

Carrying out the role of a personal representative involves following important legal procedures and taking practical steps such as safeguarding the deceased’s property, making funeral arrangements, collating financial information, and officially informing any relevant organisations of the death.

If you are writing your will and contemplating appointing executors, it is wise to think carefully in advance about their suitability. For example, are they willing and able to act? If you wish to appoint more than one executor, are the appointees likely to be able to work together, or is there the potential for a dispute to arise? It is possible to appoint as executors one or more partners in a firm of solicitors, which could be useful if you are reluctant to appoint family members or friends. However, it is also possible to appoint a lawyer to act alongside family members or friends.

If you do decide to appoint family members or friends as your executors, it is a good idea (and a matter of courtesy) to advise them of your intention, and to establish their willingness to take on the role. In our experience it is not uncommon to meet surprised, sometimes shocked, executors who have only become aware of their obligations once their loved one has died.

In any case — whether forewarned or not — the responsible role of a personal representative should be undertaken in good faith and with the utmost care. If you need legal advice and guidance on acting as an executor, especially if you are faced with a complex or contentious situation, you can rely on the experts at George Ide for professional support. Call the team on 01243 786668 to find out how we can help.

Siobhan Richards. Solicitor, private client department.

General, George Ide, News, Private Client, Wills and Probate
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