Legal Dictionary

personal representative

Legal Definition of personal representative


  1. In the law of wills, this is the general name given to the person who administers the estate of a deceased person. There are two kinds of personal representatives. Where a person dies without a will, the court must appoint an administrator. Where a personal representative is named in a will, the personal representative is known as an executor.


Definition of personal representative

Further reading

In common law jurisdictions, a personal representative is the generic term for an executor for the estate of a deceased person who left a will or the administrator of an intestate estate.[1] In either case, a Surrogate Court of competent jurisdiction issues a finding of fact, including that a will has or has not been filed, and that an executor or administrator has been appointed. These are often referred to as "letters testamentary", "letters of administration" or "letters of representation", as the case may be. These documents, with the appropriate death certificate are often the only license a person needs to do the banking, stock trading, real estate transactions and other actions necessary to marshal and dispose of the decedent's estate in the name of the estate itself.

As a fiduciary, a personal representative has the duties of:

  1. loyalty
  2. candor or honesty
  3. good faith.

In the U.S., punctilio of honor, or the highest standard of honor, is the term used to describe the level of scrupulousness that a fiduciary must abide by.[2]

Types of personal representatives include:

  • Executor or Executrix (term for females)
  • Alternate executor
  • Administrator
  • Ancilllary administrator
  • Administrator de bonis non - one acting without complete authority
  • Public administrator
  • Guardian
  • Conservator

U.S. Department of Defense

In the U.S., the Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants appointed a Personal Representative (CSRT) to meet with each captive who was still being held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba, in August 2004, when the Supreme Court forced the Department of Defense to start convening Combatant Status Review Tribunals. Such a personal representative is more like a guardian ad litem.


  1. Hayton & Marshall (2005) 1-127-1-128
  2. Meinhard v. Salmon, 164 N.E. 545 (N.Y. 1928).


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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