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The duties of a personal representative or estate executor

The executor of an estate is the person who you name in your will or in your estate plan to carry out your wishes, pay your debts and in other ways settle your estate after you pass away. A personal representative carries out exactly the same duties as an executor; the only difference is that you appoint an executor. A personal representative is someone who is appointed by the courts if you pass away in California without a will or estate plan, if you didn’t name an executor in the will or if the executor who you named has been incapacitated or died without a backup being named in your documents.

The job of a personal representative

A personal representative’s primary duties involve carrying out the wishes stated in the will. Asset distribution becomes a critical responsibility, and the personal representative handles various legal steps to transfer property to the intended or to the legal next of kin.

Often, however, an estate often has liabilities that require attention. For example, the estate might owe credit card, loan and tax debt. The executor or personal representative would pay these debts with estate funds in addition to filing the necessary tax documents on the deceased’s behalf.

Expect the executor and personal representative to close credit accounts, cancel insurance policies, deal with utility companies and more. Essentially, the representative and the executor perform numerous duties on the deceased’s behalf.


It’s a good idea to choose a personal representative carefully during the estate planning stages. Sometimes, probate litigation occurs, such as when someone contests the will. Other times, litigation may happen when the executor fails at their duties. Beneficiaries might petition the court when an executor appears incompetent.

If who handles your estate after you pass on is important to you, then it’s wise to choose an executor and be sure that your will is up to date. Otherwise, the court-appointed personal representative will be the one who settles your affairs.