Provided by the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan
Who can be a Personal Representative?
A personal representative is someone appointed by the court to control or manage property that belongs only to the decedent. An attorney should help you prepare the necessary documents to open an estate and request appointment as the personal representative. The personal representative is responsible for carrying out the duties and responsibilities stated in the law. The court will appoint a personal representative from the following list of people, in order starting from the top:
- A person named in the decedent's will as personal representative
- A surviving spouse if he or she is beneficiary under the will
- Other beneficiaries under the will
- The surviving spouse if he or she is not a beneficiary under the will
- Other heirs of the decedent
- If none named after a certain amount of time, someone chosen by a creditor and approved by the probate judge
What do I do if I am Appointed Personal Representative?
When the court appoints you as personal representative, and if you feel you can act in that role, you must accept the appointment in writing to the court before you can act as the personal representative. After you accept the appointment, the court will issue you "letters of authority." The letters of authority identity you as the personal representative and show that you are authorized to manage the probating of the estate. Letters of authority may also limit your authority as personal representative, and may list certain actions that you can do only when you get written approval from the judge. As the personal representative, you are expected to "administer the estate" and complete certain duties under the law. An attorney can help you understand your legal duties and complete the administration.