A Personal Representative, also referred to as an Executor/Executrix or Administrator in some jurisdictions, is the fiduciary put in charge of settling a deceased person's estate.
Personal Representatives in Testate Estates
If the decedent had a Last Will and Testament, then in most cases the person or entity named to serve as Personal Representative in the Last Will will be appointed by the probate judge to serve. The exceptions are if the person or entity named legally isn't allowed to serve or if there's a successful will contest that invalidates the Last Will or disqualifies the named Personal Representative.
Why wouldn't the person or entity named to serve as Personal Representative in the Last Will legally be allowed to serve? Because the person or entity doesn't meet all of the legal criteria under the applicable state law. For example, a minor or convicted felon can't serve, a bank or trust company that doesn't have fiduciary powers in the state where the probate is taking place can't serve, and in Florida a person can't serve as a Personal Representative unless he or she is related to the decedent by blood or marriage and, if not, then a Florida resident.
Personal Representatives in Intestate Estates
If the decedent didn't have a Last Will and Testament, then the intestacy laws of the state where the decedent lived at the time of death will determine who has priority to serve as the Personal Representative - first a surviving spouse, if any; then a surviving child or children, if any; then a surviving parent, if any; then a surviving sibling or siblings, if any; then a surviving niece or nephew, if any.
What happens if more than one person has priority to serve as Personal Representative, such as two or more children or two or more siblings? If the heirs at law agree on who should serve, then the probate judge will appoint that person. But if the heirs at law don't agree, then it will be left up to the probate judge to choose the Personal Representative.