When you die, your personal representative (also known as an administrator or executor) will gather and inventory all of your property at the time of your death. Most states require the personal representative to post a surety bond covering his/her actions, although you can explicitly waive this requirement in your will. The personal representative will also determine your outstanding debts, pay your legitimate debts, and distribute the remaining property according to the instructions in your will. Your personal representative will be appointed in a probate proceeding. The personal representative must usher your property through the probate process, subject to your state’s probate rules and procedures. In many states, the court maintains tight control over the activities of the personal representative. For example, the personal representative must obtain the court’s permission to sell, distribute, or otherwise take action with respect to property in your estate.
It is important to choose someone who you think will be competent and trustworthy to serve as your personal representative. The personal representative will have access to all of your property and the authority to conduct certain business on your behalf. To the extent that you can, it is a good idea to choose a person with some business experience, intelligence, and high integrity. Your will should name the person you wish to nominate as your personal representative. You will probably also name one or more alternates to serve in the event that your first choice for personal representative is unwilling or unable to serve. Because you cannot speak in your own behalf, your will acts as your voice to inform the probate court about who you think will be best suited to this job.