When you create or amend your will, you have the right to choose a personal representative who will administer your estate. While this may seem like a formality, it’s an important step that should be carefully considered because your representative will attend to all of your estate’s legal and financial affairs. Thus, it’s essential to choose a personal representative you can trust to carry out your wishes.
First: Understand the Job of a Personal Representative
One of the first tasks of a personal representative, also known as an executor, is to file your will in the County Clerk’s office. This should be done within the first 40 days of your death. Additionally, your personal representative will be expected to:
- Give notice to creditors about your death.
- Create an inventory of your assets. This inventory must be completed, but it only has to be filed with the court if it is requested by an heir, a beneficiary, a creditor, or the Department of Revenue. The inventory should include the value of all of your assets.
- File estate taxes, if necessary.
- Pay debts owed by your estate.
- Distribute assets to your beneficiaries.
It is important to consider whether the person you’ve determined to be your personal representative will be able and willing to fulfill these duties.
Second: Determine If This Person Is Legally Qualified to be a Personal Representative
You have the right to appoint a personal representative you feel is qualified to handle the affairs of your estate. However, Washington law places some restrictions on who may serve as your personal representative. Specifically, the Revised Code of Washington 11.36.010 says that a personal representative must be:
- A person. Generally, you should appoint a person to the position of personal representative of your estate. Corporations, limited liability companies, and limited liability partnerships may not be personal representatives unless they fit into one of the exceptions described in the statute. Exceptions may be made for trust companies, national banks, and law firms.
- An adult. Minors may not be personal representatives of estates in Washington.
- Of sound mind. The person you appoint must be able to use reason and to act as a rational adult.
- Free of certain criminal convictions. Anyone who has been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude is not legally qualified to be a personal representative in Washington.
There are no residency restrictions. However, if your personal representative is not a resident of the county where your estate is probated, your personal representative may need to appoint an agent in the county where the estate is being probated and file a bond with the probate court.
It is important to periodically review your will to make sure that the executor that you have appointed remains legally qualified to act as your personal representative.
Third: Make a Legally Binding Appointment of a Personal Representative
Once you have identified a person who you would like to serve in this role and who meets the necessary qualifications, it’s important to make sure your will is properly drafted and executed. If this is not done, there is no guarantee that the person whom you want to serve as your personal representative will be able to do so. Instead, the probate court may appoint someone to the role of executor after your death.
Talk to an experienced estate planning lawyer who can help you choose the right personal representative and can ensure that your will is drafted and executed according to the laws of Washington. For more information or to get started drafting or amending your will, please call us, or contact us via this website to schedule a private and confidential meeting.