Choosing a personal representative for a Minnesota estate

When the time comes for your estate to go to probate, someone will need to act on behalf of the estate. This personal representative is commonly also referred to as the executor.

You can designate your personal representative in your will. If you do not, the court will appoint one, usually from among your close family circle. However, just because someone is a close relation does not mean he or she is the best person to oversee the probate process according to your wishes. Understanding what the personal representative will need to do can help you assess whom you can trust to fulfill these duties effectively.

Taking stock of the estate

In Minnesota, a personal representative's obligations begin with inventorying and safeguarding the estate's assets. The representative must get a proper valuation of each asset.

Settling debts

The representative will also handle the estate's debts before distributing the estate. However, if a debt is in dispute, the representative may fail in his or her duties to the heirs by simply paying it. In such a situation, the representative will need to get legal counsel as to whether to fight the debt or settle it.

Carrying out the provisions in the will

Once the inventorying and debt settling process is complete, the representative oversees the distribution of the estate according to the terms of the will. This may not always be as simple as it sounds. Conflict can arise about specific terms and even about the validity of the entire will. Throughout this process, the representative must act on behalf of the estate and the decedent's wishes, no matter his or her personal feelings.


Throughout, the representative must keep complete and accurate records of the estate's assets and liabilities, their value and their disposition. Failing to properly account for any item can result in personal claims against the representative.

As you can see, your representative should be organized and possess the knowledge and experience to fulfill these obligations. It is also a good idea to choose someone you can trust to prioritize your wishes and who will not have a personal or moral conflict with your will's provisions.

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