A personal representative, sometimes called an executor, is someone that the decedent chose, or who the court appointed, to settle his or her estate based on the directions in his or her will. This person is one of several fiduciaries that could be associated with the estate.
Almost anyone can be named a personal representative, but typically people choose spouses, siblings or children. Minnesota only requires that the personal representative is at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Due to the responsibilities expected of a personal representative, it is often prudent that the personal representative is also organized, adept in communication and located near most of the assets.
If the court determines the personal representative is unsuitable, it will likely hold a hearing with all the people involved in the estate to appoint a new personal representative. The court will also select a personal representative if the decedent did not choose one or the chosen person renounces the position. If the court appoints a new personal representative, that person will likely be selected from a predetermined hierarchy set by the state.
Disputes can occur among family members if there are hard feelings about the person chosen as personal representative. Disputes can also arise from family members, other beneficiaries or even creditors if the personal representative does not fulfill the role's responsibilities correctly or is perceived to not fulfill them correctly.
There are a variety of ways to resolve conflicts like these, though sometimes the disputes result in probate litigation. This can be a lengthy and expensive process that often has emotional repercussions, especially if the dispute is among family members.
Although the personal representative can be almost anyone, to avoid or minimize litigation he or she should be trustworthy and have the skills to manage the estate without disrupting the balance of family dynamics. It is a difficult and sometimes emotional role, but one that it essential for the finalization of the decedent's financial affairs.