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Personal Representatives

Supervised by the probate courts, the probate process is initiated and managed by a personal representative (PR) of the estate. A personal representative may be the executor of the will, a surviving spouse or child of the Deceased or other person designated by the probate court to handle matters after a death. The personal representative is approved by the probate court and is in charge of:

  • Collecting, appraising and inventorying the assets of the estate
  • Protecting and preserving those assets
  • Paying debts and taxes of the estate
  • Distributing any remaining assets of the estate to the designated/entitled parties at the end of the probate process

Typically, the personal representative cannot be under 18 and must be a resident of the U.S. (Please note: Some states have specific rules about who may or may not be a personal representative.) The personal representative should generally be someone with good judgment and be somewhat familiar with the Deceased’s affairs. If a personal representative is not appointed in a will, the court will appoint one and it will usually start with next of kin. There is no obligation to serve as the personal representative and the position can be declined if someone is worried about their ability to serve or feel they are not a good choice.


More than one personal representative can be appointed in most states. In such a case, they are co-representatives and need to come to an agreement about decisions and actions that need to be taken, unless the will specifies otherwise. There are exceptions to this rule in some states, including in those that adopt the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). The six exceptions are:

  • When the will dictates that the representatives do not have to be in agreement, another basis for making decisions is acceptable. In this case, the will generally provides guidance.
  • When there is an emergency, co-representatives do not have to agree if they cannot agree in time to preserve the estate.
  • Either representative can receive and give receipts.
  • Co-representatives may assign specific tasks to one representative.
  • When a third party is unaware that there is more than one representative, their transactions with one representative are considered to be with both representatives.
  • When there are two or more representatives and one representative’s appointment is terminated, the remaining representative will handle all matters.

Please note: Having more than one personal representative for an estate can cause conflict and difficulty, so anyone considering appointing two or more personal representatives should carefully think about the decision.