Question:  My Mother’s will name me as the personal representative of her estate, and says, “I can serve without the need for a bond.”  When I filed with will with the probate court, I was told I needed to complete a bond.  Why is a bond needed?

Answer:  The role of personal representative is a court appointed authority, which causes judges anxiety.  What if the person appointed does something awful. Heck, some lawyers even abscond with estate funds. So how does a bond protect members of an estate?

A bond is the formal written promise made by the personal representative that he or she will responsible for violations of his or her fiduciary duty. Judges sleep better knowing a personal representative has some “skin in the game”.  Consider the bond like a promissory note, which formalizes a borrower’s obligations, and makes them personally responsible to perform.

Sometimes, a judge demands double layered protection, by requiring sureties on the bond.  Here, the personal representative is on the line to perform, but the court wants other resources for potential recovery.  Consider sureties on a bond, like co-signers to the promissory note.

Two individuals, with sufficient assets to cover the value of the estate, can act as personal sureties on a bond.  Alternatively, a corporation can step into this role for a fee. Either way, the sureties are vouching for the personal representative, and assuming responsibility, for their performance. In your case, your Mother’s will tried to waive your bond.  But, you got the next best option:  waiver of sureties on your bond.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law, estate planning and business matters in Billerica at 790 Boston Road.  Contact him with questions at 978-671-0711, or email him at

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