Making a Will – Selecting a Personal Representative

Selecting a Personal Representative

Common questions about choosing a personal representative

Who can I appoint as my personal representative?

You can choose any adult you wish. Most often, people choose a family member or a trusted friend to be their personal representative.

A personal representative can also be a corporation (such as a trust company). Either way:

  • be sure that the person you choose has the time and ability to carry out the many
    duties of a personal representative; and,
  • before you appoint someone, ask them if they are willing to do the job.

You can choose a beneficiary to be your personal representative.

You can also choose someone who does not live in Alberta, but this may prove inconvenient, as all procedures to settle your estate will be done in Alberta.

What should I think about in choosing a personal representative?

Looking after an estate can be difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes it can include responsibilities that last for years.

The best personal representative is a trustworthy, reliable and competent adult. A personal representative needs to be someone you trust and who has the ability to carry out your instructions (which may involve standing up to family members and friends and dealing with interpersonal conflicts).

You should consider choosing someone who has some knowledge about business affairs. Choose someone who is likely to outlive you. Choosing someone who lives in the same province as you do may cut down on long distance phone calls and other administrative expenses.

Your spouse, an adult child, a friend, family member or heir may be able to do a good job as personal representative. Many people choose their spouse or main heir as personal representative.

It is also very important to name an alternate (back-up) personal representative in case your first choice dies, moves away, or for some reason is unable to do the job.

You can name your lawyer as personal representative but most lawyers don’t act as personal representatives. Before you name your lawyer check that she or he is willing to be your personal representative.

Naming more than one personal representative

You can appoint more than one personal representative. If there are two or more personal representatives, they must act unanimously unless your will states otherwise or a court directs otherwise. If you appoint more than one personal representative, be sure that they will be able to work together. You should discuss your wishes with both of them. It is best to do this with them together. If one personal representative dies,
the other one can act alone.

Appointing a trust company

If your estate is complicated or you don’t have a relative or friend who is able to act, you may want to appoint a trust company as personal representative. In addition, if there is a chance that a problem will arise among your heirs, a trust company might be a good choice because it would be an impartial personal representative.

There can, however, be disadvantages to using a trust company. It usually charges the maximum fee allowable and tends to be a conservative investor. In addition, it probably won’t be as familiar with your assets as a friend or family member might be. You should check that the company is willing to act as personal representative. If you don’t, the company might refuse to act as personal representative upon your death.

I want to name a specific family member as my personal representative but I’m worried that this will cause conflict. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

There are a number of options that may help, depending on your situation and personal preferences.

Conflict can often be avoided by telling your family in advance and explaining the reasons for your choice. Another way to avoid family conflict is to name someone else such as a close friend, or a trust company.

Should I include provisions about payment for my personal representative?

The Surrogate Rules indicate that personal representatives are entitled to “fair and reasonable compensation for their responsibility in administering an estate by performing the personal representatives’ duties.”

In your will, you can state how much your personal representative will be paid. If you do, this is the maximum amount the personal representative can receive. If you do not name an amount, and if the personal representative wants to be paid, your personal representative may either ask the beneficiaries to approve his or her fee or the court must order the fee.

Often, a personal representative does not accept a fee. This is common if the personal representative is a spouse, family member, or close friend. Alternatively, your personal representative may prefer to take a gift rather than a fee because a fee is taxable, but a gift (jewellery, cash, real estate, etc.) given under your will is not. Any expenses the Personal Representative has while settling the estate are paid for out of the estate. Examples of such expenses are photocopying, postage, and long-distance phone calls.

You should NOT rely on this webpage for legal advice. It provides general information on Alberta law only. October 2015.
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