After you die, your estate is probated in court. The person responsible for moving your estate through the probate process is your personal representative, also sometimes called an executor.
One reason to create a will is to appoint a representative for your estate. If you don’t, then Hawaii law assigns priority to a list of people who might want to serve. For example, the first choice is the person identified in the will. But if there is no will or this person can’t serve, then your surviving spouse is next in line, followed by any decedent you left property to, followed by other heirs.
At Holcomb Law, LLLC, we work closely when drafting a will to help our clients pick the right personal representative. Below, our Honolulu estate planning lawyer highlights some key considerations.[/BLUE_HEADING_CONTENT]
Choose Someone Who is Responsible
Your personal representative has many key duties during probate. For example, they must:
- Collect estate assets
- Keep estate assets safe
- Notify creditors of your death
- Analyze any claims submitted to the estate and accept or reject them
- Keep the court updated on the process
- File your taxes
These are important duties. Someone who is careless might not even identify all estate assets, or they could fail to keep them safe. For example, if you owned a car or home, the personal representative should keep them insured until probate ends. If you had stocks or investments, your representative should keep them prudently invested so they don’t lose value during probate.
Find Someone Who Isn’t Afraid to Ask for Help
A personal representative must wear many hats. They should be good with finances but also legal issues. Your personal representative can hire a lawyer, financial advisor, or accountant to help with many tasks. But they need to know when to reach out for help in the first place.
Pick Someone Nearby, if Possible
It is hard to probate an estate from the mainland. For this reason, we recommend naming someone in Honolulu or at least in Hawaii. The obvious choice would be your spouse, if you are married. But if you’re widowed or never married, you will need to choose someone else.
Consider Your Spouse’s Health
Although many people pick their spouse, the fact is he or she could be in poor physical shape when you die. Someone who is sick or dealing with cognitive decline probably cannot fulfill the role.
Avoid Choosing Two People
Some lawyers recommend appointing two people to serve at the same time. That’s usually a mistake because disputes can arise. And disputes in probate can slow down the process and ultimately reduce the value of your estate.
However, it’s always sensible to appoint an alternate who can step in if your first-choice declines or is unavailable.
Call Holcomb Law Today
This is a difficult choice, and every person’s needs are different. We have only touched on some of the most important considerations above. There are many more that we can discuss in person. Call Holcomb Law today to schedule a consultation.