What is the Role of a Personal Representative in a Will?

When someone passes away, there is actually a lot of work to complete, including settling the decedent’s estate (property and assets) and paying off final debts and obligations. To accomplish these and other tasks, a personal representative (sometimes called an “executor” in states other than Washington) is tasked with tying up loose ends and carrying out the decedent’s wishes put in his or her estate plan. Being a personal representative is both a privilege and a responsibility. This blog will provide you with an idea of the tasks typically assigned to a personal representative. 

Named in Will vs. Appointed By Judge

A Last Will and Testament is a versatile estate-planning document used by many people. One thing a Will can accomplish is to name a personal representative. People who take the time to make an estate plan for themselves often carefully consider who they want settling their estate and officially name a personal representative. Other times, estates with no Wills or other planning documents must rely on the court to name a personal representative. Regardless, an estate’s personal representative must still be approved by the court and receive the “letters testamentary ” or “letters of administration,” which affirm their legal authority to handle the decedent’s estate.

Specific Duties of a Personal Representative

Depending on the size of the estate of which you are the personal representative, the process for settling the estate could take several weeks or in excess of a year. During this time, you will:

  • Compile an inventory of the decedent’s probate assets
  • Determine the date-of-death value of probate assets
  • Handle upkeep and maintenance of real property and other probate assets
  • Giving notice to decedent’s creditors
  • Paying final bills, debts, and taxes (taxes are generally due on April 15 of the next year)
  • Distribute the estate’s assets in accordance with the decedent’s Will or state law

In Washington, any estates worth more than $2,193,000.00 are subject to an estate tax. Federal estate taxes kick in for estates worth more than $11,580,000.00. The current estate tax exemption is set to expire in 2025, at which time it could revert to the pre-2018 exemption level of $5 million for an individual taxpayer.

Personal Representative Prerequisites

To serve as a personal representative, the candidate must be at least 18 and not declared mentally incapacitated by a court. Additionally, convicted felons or those who commit crimes involving  moral turpitude are usually barred from acting as personal representatives. Out-of-state executors for estates in Washington must designate someone who lives locally to act as an agent for certain matters. 


Being named a personal representative is nothing to fear, but there is a significant amount of responsibility involved. For any legal services related to estate-planning or administering probate in Washington state, please reach out to the team at the McMahon Law Group. We are happy to discuss your needs over the phone at 360-893-2527.

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McMahon Law Group

Legal issues of any type can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, and certainly something you don’t want to face alone. Attorney Jacque McMahon and the McMahon Law Group will work closely with you to ensure you not only get the best legal representation possible, but that you are well-informed throughout the process. If you are facing legal issues, please contact us to discuss your situation and get the help you need.

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