The legal term “estate” refers to everything you own at the time of your death. Your estate can be large or small, but someone has to manage it after you pass on. The term for this person is the personal representative.
Choosing a personal representative is not a decision you should take lightly. CNBC answers questions you may have about choosing a personal representative.
1. How long does it take to settle an estate?
On average, settling an estate takes about 16 months. The more complicated your estate, the longer it is likely to take. Sometimes it can take several years. Therefore, the person you choose as your representative needs to have patience and dedication.
2. What other qualities should a personal representative have?
Your personal representative should have organizational skills to not only handle legal documents but also effectively balance his or her duties with other life responsibilities. Because your personal representative’s duties have an effect on your heirs, you need to choose someone whom you can trust to act on your behalf.
3. What is the difference between a co-representative and a contingency representative?
Because life is uncertain, there is no way to know for sure if your first-choice personal representative will be available to serve when needed. A contingency representative is someone you appoint as a backup in case your first choice is no longer willing or able to serve when the time comes.
If you appoint co-representatives, they share the responsibilities for managing your estate at the same time. This can be an effective strategy, but only if you choose people who work well together.