How to Choose a Personal Representative in Massachusetts

Choosing your personal representative or executor in Massachusetts is extremely important. A personal representative is a person you name in your will who will become responsible for managing your estate after your death. They will protect your property and manage your property after you’re gone. The purpose of taking the time to create an estate plan is so your goals and wishes can take place after your death. Your personal representative is critically important because he or she will make sure your assets transfer to your chosen beneficiaries. How do you go about selecting a person for such an important role?

Make Sure Your Personal Representative Is Eligible in Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts probate law, the executor must be at least 18 years old. The personal representative must be of sound mind, meaning a court has not declared the person to be incapacitated. Interestingly, Massachusetts probate courts have a right to reject a personal representative when appointing that person is “contrary to the best interests of the estate.” 

Should You Appoint Somone Who Lives Out of State?  

Some states place additional requirements on out-of-state personal representatives. On the contrary, Massachusetts probate law treats out-of-state personal representatives the same as in-state representatives. You can appoint an out-of-state personal representative; however, doing so may come with additional challenges. Personal representatives have to handle paperwork, financial, and legal matters every day for months, or sometimes longer. Choosing someone from out of state could cause your appointee hardship. 

Appointing a Spouse or Child

Most Massachusetts estate planners choose a spouse or child as unpaid personal representatives. We recommend thinking carefully before choosing a close family member. Will the person be overwhelmed with grief to the point that representing your estate will be burdensome? You may want to consider appointing a spouse and a grown child as co-executors, so they share the burden. 

What If You Have Multiple Children?

Sometimes our clients are concerned about showing favoritism to one child by selecting that child to be the personal representative. Consider your family dynamics when making the decision. Is the selected child the sibling most able to handle the responsibilities of executing your estate? Do you anticipate family conflict or in-fighting regarding the distribution of your estate? If so, appointing a paid, unbiased, outside executor may be a better option. If you don’t anticipate substantial challenges among family members, selecting a responsible adult child could be the best option. You can also choose to appoint multiple children as executors, but doing so could invite friction should the siblings disagree. 

Choosing a Personal Representative for Larger Estates

Extremely complicated estates might need an institutional personal representative. A bank trust department or an estate planning lawyer can serve as a personal representative. One of the benefits of appointing a paid executor is that it shifts the burden away from unpaid family members onto a professional with experience. Also, selecting a neutral executor can be quite beneficial when blended families and second marriages are involved. 

Choose Someone Who is Trustworthy

Whoever you decide to choose, be sure that you trust them. Personal representatives will have access to all of your assets, financial records, and everything else you’ve worked hard to earn over the years. Trust is one of the most critical requirements for a personal representative. Select someone that you know has your best interest at heart and will make decisions in line with your wishes. Contact the estate planning lawyers at Surprenant & Beneski, PC today to schedule your initial consultation.