An executor or administrator of an estate is the personal representative of the deceased. Deciding whether to act as someone’s personal representative is an important decision. No one can be forced to act as personal representative, even if they are named as executor in a will.

Before agreeing to act, consider some of the duties of the personal representative:

  • Ensuring proper funeral arrangements are made,
  • Acting impartially,
  • Taking possession of the deceased’s assets,
  • Paying the deceased’s debts and planning to take care of other liabilities,
  • Notifying beneficiaries,
  • Spending time to make careful decisions,
  • Making certain that estate investments are suitable,
  • Insuring against perils,
  • Continuing or starting court actions on behalf of the estate, and
  • Accounting to beneficiaries and creditors of the estate.

There are some risks and additional duties that a personal representative might face, and should be aware of before agreeing to act:

  • There could be personal liability for a breach of trust in administering the estate,
  • The terms of the will (if there is one), might specify terms of trusts that need to be administered,
  • The nature and location of the deceased’s assets might involve special considerations,
  • Conflicts of interest might arise in administering the estate,
  • Acting might affect personal relationships with the beneficiaries,
  • If the personal representative is a non-resident, there might be tax implications for the estate, and
  • The remuneration available might be small in relation to the time involved.