The personal representative of an estate is modern terminology adopted in Missouri and many other states for what used to be called the executor of your estate. The personal representative or executor of your estate is appointed when you die, so it is death that triggers the personal representative getting involved.

Do Personal Representatives Get Paid or Receive Any Compensation for their Work?

Personal Representatives are entitled to compensation for their work. In a state like Missouri, the probate statutes provide for compensation to a personal representative equal to a certain percentage of the value of an estate’s assets. Other states may have different formulas for personal representative compensation, but it is permitted in all states.

Sometimes people will appoint family members such as their spouse or their children to serve as personal representative, and generally those are parties that may waive their right to receive compensation because they’re doing it out love for a deceased family member, not for personal gain.

What Are the Duties of a Personal Representative?

The personal representative does all things necessary to take care of a decedent’s final affairs and distribute the decedent’s property to those legally entitled to it. These things include identifying and inventorying with the probate court all of the decedent’s assets, filing the decedent’s final income tax return, paying all of the decedent’s debts, and then distributing the decedent’s property to the beneficiaries of the estate.

What if a Personal Representative Refuses to Carry Out His or Her Duties?

You can’t force someone to be a personal representative if they do not want to accept the job. So if a decedent’s will, for example, says, “Upon my death, I designate my brother Bob as my personal representative,” and brother Bob is a very busy guy who doesn’t feel he can devote the time to the task, he can decline to serve as personal representative.

If a person declines to serve, the will typically appoints successors if the first person named declines or is otherwise unable to serve, and those successors would then serve as personal representative. If the will did not designate successors or those successors are unable to act, or the decedent died without a will, the probate court will appoint another appropriate person to serve as personal representative.

This article was originally published by Steve Spewak on It is republished here with permission.