Personal Representative: Deciding Whether to Take on the Job
Being the personal representative of an estate can be a lot of responsibility and work. Do you want the job? No one can force anyone to be the personal representative of an estate, so you can always feel free to renounce the appointment, as long as you have not intermeddled (started acting as the executor / personal representative).
(Note: the term “personal representative” is the current legal term used to refer to an executor/executrix, administrator/administratix, and judicial trustee.)
How do you know if you’ve intermeddled? You have intermeddled if you’ve done something that would lead others to think that you intend to act as the personal representative. If you’ve taken possession of property that actually belongs to the estate or have written a letter declaring yourself the personal representative, you’ve intermeddled.
Note that simply paying the funeral expenses or looking into how much the deceased owes is not considered intermeddling. From a practical point of view, some things have to be done without waiting to find out who the personal representative is.
If you’ve intermeddled, you are no longer free to renounce your appointment as personal representative. You may also be liable for loss or damage resulting from dealing with the estate improperly.
Liability Issues for a Personal Representative of Estate
When you serve as a personal representative, you can be at risk of liability. Issues can arise if you mismanage or waste assets belonging to the estate, pay out legacies incorrectly, breach a trust, don’t pay debts, make imprudent investments, fail to pay taxes, or fail to do the accounting of the estate properly. There are other situations that you can be held personally liable for as well.
To avoid personal liability, it’s important to consider the likelihood of any of these situations taking place. Do you have the skills and knowledge to ensure your duties are carried out properly? Do you have legal assistance you trust? How experienced is your estate lawyer? Make sure you are comfortable before agreeing to act as a personal representative.
Other Issues to Consider
Before jumping into being a personal administrator, consider how much work will be required to carry out the terms laid out in the will. Some wills are fairly easy to deal with; others are extremely complex.
If the estate is insolvent or bankrupt, it may be difficult to deal with. Similarly, you may want to bow out if there are assets you don’t have the expertise to handle.
Do you have the time to act as a personal representative? In Alberta, you are expected to complete your duties in a timely manner. Perhaps most importantly, how might your relationships with family be affected? Many personal representatives face family disputes as they try to carry out their duties.
These are just a few of the issues you want to consider before accepting your appointment as a personal administrator in Alberta. The best thing to do is to talk to your lawyer before doing anything that might be considered intermeddling. Together you can decide if you’re the best person for the job.
As experienced Calgary probate lawyers, we can make your life easier if you’d rather not take on the task.