One of the most important tasks in preparing your estate is choosing who will fulfill the responsibilities of carrying out the closure of your assets and liabilities. Once appointed, your personal representative (or “agent”) will have the fiduciary duty to act in your estate’s best interests. Violation of this or other duties could result in personal liability against your agent. Therefore, be sure to make your selection wisely, be it a close family member, friend, or corporate entity.
States have differing minimum requirements for qualifying personal representatives. For example, Maryland disqualifies persons who are minors, mentally incompetent, convicted of a serious crime, or non-residents without a resident agent. Non-U.S. citizens and judges may also be disqualified, with listed exceptions.
Virginia instead requires that the court or clerk must be satisfied that the representative is “suitable and competent”. Virginia automatically disqualifies persons including felons still in prison, minors, and those who cannot obtain a surety bond if required. Nonresidents may qualify if they obtain a surety bond.
Beyond these statutory requirements, here are some other factors you might consider when choosing your executor or trustee:
- Availability – Is your representative located close by? Will it be convenient for your choice to fulfill all duties? Does your representative even want the responsibility?
- Competence — Does your choice have the ability to handle the oversight and dispensing of your estate? Would your agent have the humility to admit the need to delegate a duty to outside professionals?
- Rationality — Can the agent place your stated goals first? Can she keep a level head while fulfilling the conflicting requirements of your family, the court, financial and insurance institutions, etc.?
- Reliability – Is your representative likely to perform all the requirements? If you choose an organization, does it have a long history of stability?
- Fairness – Will your representative act fairly if issues come up? Will the beneficiaries respect the representative’s thought processes and decisions?