What Is a Personal Representative of an Estate Vs. the Executor?


Quick Answer

The executor is named in the will as the individual responsible for distributing the assets of the estate, according to William R. Simon Jr. for SAN DIEGO LAW FIRM. Personal representative refers to the executor or administrator. The administrator is appointed by the probate court when no executor is named in the will.

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Full Answer

Regardless of whether the estate is administered by an executor or administrator, the duties are the same, explains Simon. The personal representative must gather the estate's assets; pay any debts and taxes; and distribute the remainder to those entitled to inherit. The personal representative distributes this money to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are individuals or organizations specifically named in the will. There can be one or more beneficiaries entitled to receive various monies or property. Common examples of beneficiaries include family members, friends, charitable organizations and churches.

When someone dies without naming a beneficiary, the assets of the estate are given to the heir or heirs, notes Simon. The determination of who the heirs are and how much they receive depends on state inheritance laws. Generally speaking, preference is given to spouses and children. If there are no spouses or children, preference is given to other family members. These individuals are referred to as heirs because they are entitled to the estate's assets under state inheritance laws.

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