estate planning attorney

Achieving your estate planning goals can largely depend on your selection of a reliable personal representative. This is the individual who will have legal authority to carry out your instructions, whether in a will or a trust, after you have passed away. A personal representative is in essence an extension of yourself, acting in your behalf and making decisions much the same way as you would make them. You need to select someone who is not only trustworthy but also capable of carrying out the duties required.

Your personal representative is the person named as executor in your will, who is charged with administering your probate estate, or the trustee named in a trust instrument, who must manage the trust property and carry out the distributions directed. You can name the same person for both roles. If you wish instead to name a different representative for each, it can create logistical problems and the potential for conflict. This is a reason to discuss your choice of representatives with your attorney.

A personal representative for a probate estate must be found qualified by the court. Once appointed, he or she will have a number of duties, including the following:

  • Providing notice of the probate proceeding to all your heirs
  • Preparing an inventory of estate assets, listing the value of each item at the time of your death
  • Discovering and paying all debts outstanding at the time of your death, including tax liabilities
  • Responding in court to any contests raised to your will or to any of its provisions
  • Distributing the estate property in accordance with the terms of the will
  • Filing an estate income tax return
  • Providing a final accounting to the court

The demand of these duties should not exceed your representative’s abilities. Personal strengths such as attention to detail, clear thinking and financial savvy should be considered in making your choice. Most people want to name a family member to be their personal representative. This is certainly permissible, and perhaps desirable, but there might be reasons not to do so. You may need someone outside the family if you’re concerned about factions developing or if you simply would like to spare family members this work at a time when they need to grieve. You could select a trusted friend or a professional, such as a financial planner or estate planning attorney.

The Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC in Mesa helps Arizona residents with wills, trusts and other aspects of estate planning. Call (480) 500-1866 or contact us online. We provide telephone consultations, Saturday and evening appointments are available.