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I’m named as a personal representative: What does this mean?

After someone passes away, it is necessary to resolve matters related to his or her estate. These matters could be financial, legal, personal, or logistical. And the person responsible for addressing these details is typically the personal representative named in the decedent’s will.

If you are named as a personal representative (also called an executor), then you should know what this means.

What does a personal representative do?

A personal representative manages the details of administering an estate. While these tasks can vary based on the specific estate and whether it is a formal or informal estate administration, generally a representative’s responsibilities include:

  • Filing paperwork to begin the probate process
  • Notifying creditors
  • Locating and contacting heirs
  • Paying necessary taxes and bills
  • Gathering a decedent’s assets
  • Filing inventory forms and other legal documents
  • Selling or transferring a decedent’s property as necessary
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries
  • Attending court hearings
  • Closing the estate

Representatives will complete these and other tasks related to a person’s estate, and they must do so in a timely manner and in accordance with Wisconsin probate laws. They must also uphold their fiduciary duty to the decedent, which means making decisions that are in the decedent’s best wishes.

Executors accused of not doing these things can wind up facing complaints from family members and possibly lawsuits.

Considering all that an estate representative must do and the challenges that can arise when administering an estate, many people work with an attorney during this process. An attorney familiar with Wisconsin probate laws and procedures can assist a representative by helping to file the proper paperwork, collect assets, and respond to disputes.

While it can seem intimidating to serve in this capacity, personal representatives should keep in mind that their loved ones selected them to act on their behalf. Knowing that and asking for help when necessary can make it easier to navigate the probate process successfully.