Whenever a person creates a will, it is typical to name one individual as their personal representative, and at least a second individual as an alternative personal representative if the person nominated is unwilling or unable to serve. Formerly this individual was known as the executor if a male and an executrix if a female. That nomenclature has changed so that regardless of gender that individual is known as the testators (will makers) “personal representative”.
You can’t force someone to be your personal representative. Even if you name them in your will, after your death they have to agree or consent to be the personal representative of your estate. Being a personal representative often times is a thankless job. It requires a lot of work, meeting with an attorney and likely an accountant as well. When someone dies, the Estate’s personal representative needs to finalize the decedent’s outstanding debts with creditors and use Estate assets to pay the decedent’s taxes due to state and federal authorities.
When making your will, here are 5 things you need to tell your future personal representative
- Where your original will is kept: Identify the exact spot in your home, if that is where it is kept, or if it is filed with someone else, such as an attorney, provide them with that person’s contact information. If your will is stored on-line, specify the website. Don’t put your will in a safety deposit box where it can be difficult to access after your death.
- Whom to notify: List the people that your personal representative or family might not think to tell or know how to reach, such as doctors, your employers, HR staff, or clubs you belong to as a member. Include contact information to make things easier for the personal representative.
- Your passwords: Share passwords and access codes for email, social media and other on-line accounts, and for any cell phones or computers. Provide instructions on how to access the accounts and devices. If, while you are alive you don’t want your personal representative to be able to access all of this information, then give the passwords to someone else that you trust to be given to your personal representative after your death and let your personal representative know how to contact that individual.
- Who gets what: Specify to your personal representative what happens to non-financial items such as recipes, photos, and mementos. Think about things in your life that are unique to you that tell a little bit about you to future generations and that may be “special” to others you love.
- Tell your personal representative where your secrets are hidden. Point your personal representative, or another trustworthy person to any skeletons you want cleaned from your closets, such as love letters from an ex, risqué photos, or medicine that you may have been covertly taking. In closing remember, even though you name someone as your personal representative you cannot require them to fulfill this responsibility. Make sure they are willing to undertake this role after you have died.