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Do I Have to Serve as a Personal Representative, Trustee or Guardian?

Yes, It's OK to Decline to Serve as a Fiduciary


What if your uncle has named you to serve as the Personal Representative of his estate, the successor Trustee of his trust or his preneed Guardian? And what if your uncle becomes incapacitated or dies and his attorney contacts you to let you know about your appointment, but you really don't want to serve or simply don't have the time? What next?

How to Decline to Serve as Personal Representative, Trustee, Guardian or Other Fiduciary

Fortunately, you can't be forced to serve in a fiduciary capacity if you don't want to. If your uncle has named a back up to serve in place of you or a co-fiduciary to serve with you, then you will need to sign a document which states that you want to decline to serve and then either the backup or co-fiduciary will be able to serve. Or, if your uncle didn't name a backup or co-fiduciary, then in most cases a court procedure will be required to fill the vacant position. But the bottom line is that you can decline to serve and go about your business.

Should You Tell Your Fiduciaries That You've Appointed Them?

If only your uncle had consulted with you prior to completing his estate plan and you let him know that you didn't want to or couldn't serve, then he most likely would have selected someone else. While some people choose to keep their estate plans private, others choose to discuss it openly with their loved ones. But unfortunately, this can cut both ways - on the one hand a private plan can lead to surprises and arguments, but on the other so can an open estate plan if it's later modified without the family being informed. Of course, what you choose to do is entirely up to you, but your decision should be carefully considered based upon your unique family and financial situations and after consultation with your estate planning attorney.

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