What does a personal representative do?

By Tanis Jalbert, LL.B. 28 November 2022 2 min read

When preparing a will a key decision is establishing who will administer and manage your estate. This person is often referred to as your executor. They may also be called the personal representative. The term personal representative applies whether or not there is a will and includes an executor or administrator. This is an important role to understand when preparing a will but also when asked to be a personal representative.

So what is the job description of the personal representative? If you are a personal representative, your core tasks as defined by Alberta legislation are:

  • To identify the estate assets and liabilities,
  • To administer and manage the estate,
  • To satisfy the debts and obligations of the estate, and
  • To distribute and account for the administration of the estate.

This provides a high level understanding of the job. However, Alberta legislation and the Surrogate Court rules provide more detail on specific duties of a personal representative. Reviewing these duties is step one. Step two is talking to an estate lawyer to ensure you fully understand your duties and responsibilities as personal representative and what is required from you.

In order to minimize any uncertainty relating to the role of a personal representative, there have also been recent changes to the Alberta Surrogate forms and process for applying for a grant. The grant forms now include reference to the above core tasks as well as other important legal obligations of a personal representative. Both must be acknowledged and affirmed as part of the grant application. Therefore, it is recommended that you seek legal and tax advice relating to the specific estate you are dealing with to understand your job as personal representative to avoid liability or negligence.

Understanding the role of a personal representative is also a very important consideration when determining who you want to name as your personal representative in your will. If the personal representative you name fails to administer your estate in a timely manner and or meet their obligations and duties, it could result in estate litigation, delay and cost, which would impact your beneficiaries.

Needless to say, this is a big ask of any family member or loved one, as being a personal representative is a significant undertaking and responsibility. Therefore, a key part of estate planning is being proactive and having a conversation with anyone you are thinking of naming as your personal representative to ensure they are in agreement with acting. Further, if you are acting as a personal representative it is critically important to fully understand your role and ensure you receive proper legal and tax advice when administering any estate.

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