When a person dies, who has priority to be appointed the personal representative (also known as the executor) of the decedent's estate? A personal representative is a person (or entity) that has the authority to administer the decedent's estate. Generally speaking, this means paying off tax, funeral expenses, debts and distributing the remainder of the estate assets.
Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 560:3-203 provides a list of interested persons who may be appointed as the personal representative to administer the estate. They are as follows from highest to lowest priority:
(1) The person with priority as determined by a probated will including a person nominated by a power conferred in a will;
(2) The surviving spouse or reciprocal beneficiary of the decedent who is a devisee of the decedent;
(3) Other devisees of the decedent;
(4) The surviving spouse or reciprocal beneficiary of the decedent
(5) Other heirs of the decedent; and
(6) Forty-five days after the death of the decedent, any creditor.
This list would apply in situations where a decedent died with a Will (testate) or without a Will (intestate).
In addition to directing where and how a person's property is distributed upon their death, a Will allows a person to nominate an individual or corporation (such as a bank) to serve as the personal representative. Such a nomination would help avoid a situation where multiple parties may fight to be appointed the personal representative since they have equal priority to serve under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 560:3-203.
Samuel K.L. Suen is an attorney based in Honolulu, Hawaii specializing in estate planning, probate, conservatorship and guardianship matters.
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