Between travel and some interesting business developments overseas, it has been a busy week in my office. Earlier this week, I had a meeting with a prospective client who was having issues with her brother who was appointed as the personal representative of their mother’s estate. It’s, unfortunately, more common than most people think. The brother and sister get along just fine. There’s been no drama at the holiday celebrations. In her will, Mom put the brother in charge of the estate as her personal representative. But the brother’s going through a divorce. He’s been very stressed out and his sister’s not sure he can handle the responsibility. So she’s in my office wondering what, if anything, she can do?

What is a Personal Representative?

A “personal representative” is another formal legal term that is used in people’s estate plans. While it may seem obvious to some people, many of my prospective clients have this question at our initial consultation. Some of them even have wills already and never asked before what does it mean.

To keep it simple, it is a person who is responsible to manage the affairs of a person’s estate. If a person dies without a will, a Court will appoint the person to manage the affairs. Where a person has a will, the will says who will be the person to manage the affairs.

Can I Remove a Personal Representative?

When a personal representative has been appointed, the question that came up this week is when can they be removed? This is a matter of state law (so it’s different in each state). In Minnesota, there are five general grounds for removal:

  • The best interests of the estate;
  • The person has disregarded orders of a court;
  • There have been material misrepresentations that led to their appointment;
  • They are incapable of discharging the duties of the office; and
  • They have mismanaged the estate or failed to perform a duty.

(Minn. Stat. 524.3-611 for those who want to do more research)

We reviewed the various grounds in our meeting this week. At this time, her brother hasn’t run afoul of any of the grounds for removal. But she’ll be keeping an eye on what goes on in case she needs to step in.

Next Steps

If you are concerned about someone else acting as the personal representative for an estate or if you are the personal representative and are unsure if you can perform the duties, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.