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According to the 2014 U.S. Trust Insights in Wealth and Worth survey, there are certain traits that people attach great significance to when considering who they should appoint to serve as the executor -- i.e., personal representative -- of their estate.

Indeed, the survey found that 78 percent of people considered trustworthiness, 52 percent considered financial knowledge and skills, and 52 percent considered objectivity and fairness when making this important decision.

In light of this reality, it can therefore seem like a great honor to be named the personal representative of a friend or family member's estate, as it means they believe you possess the reliability, financial acumen and evenhandedness needed to ensure that their assets are distributed, debts are paid and all other estate-related matters are properly managed.

Experts indicate, however, that the pride you feel at being named personal representative can rapidly dissipate once reality sets in and you see firsthand how serving as a personal representative requires a significant investment of time and energy.

What exactly is it that personal representatives find so difficult about the role?

According to the aforementioned 2014 U.S. Trust Insights in Wealth and Worth survey, personal representatives identified the following as some of the most difficult aspects of the role:

  • 29 percent cited the time commitment
  • 25 percent cited having to manage disagreements and expectations among heirs
  • 25 percent cited lacking the necessary legal knowledge

Experts also point out that the realization that you, the personal representative, could potentially be held personally liable for making certain mistakes also serves to remove some of the initial luster of the appointment.

The good news in all this, however, is that there are some simple steps that personal representatives can take to avoid these mistakes, thereby ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are honored and, more significantly, insulating themselves from liability.

We'll start exploring these in our next post.

Those who find themselves appointed to serve as a personal representatives should give serious consideration to speaking with a legal professional who can provide much-needed assistance in the area of estate administration. 

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