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Virginia Probate – Titles of the Personal Representative

Virginia Probate – Titles of the Personal Representative

By Attorney Jennifer Kahl, June 25, 2019

The term “personal representative” refers to the individual(s) or entity which has been appointed by the court to manage the estate of a deceased person. “Personal representative” is a general term; the specific title of each personal representative (“PR”) depends on several factors.


An Executor is a person (or entity) who is (1) nominated in the Last Will and Testament of the decedent to fulfill the role of PR, and (2) also appointed by the Court to act as PR. Many people mistakenly refer to themselves as an “executor” because they have been nominated in a Will. However, no one actually becomes an executor until he or she is qualified by the Court as such. (Remember, just because the Will nominates you to be the executor doesn’t mean you should actually do it).

If a Will nominates more than one individual, multiple people may serve together as “co-executors.” (Click here for some ideas on who you should – and should not – nominate as your executor).

Historically, the term “executor” is masculine, and “executrix” is the feminine equivalent. However, today “executrix” is rarely used, and “executor” is considered a gender-neutral term.


An administrator is a person (or entity) appointed by the Court to manage the estate of a person who died without a Will. A person who dies without a Will is said to have died “intestate”. In most situations, an administrator will have the same authority and duties that an executor has. Though “administrator” is the proper title for a PR of an intestate estate, many people use “executor” in casual conversation simply because the term is more recognizable.    

As with executors, the court may appoint multiple individuals as “co-administrators” or appoint an entity (such as a law firm or bank) to serve.

Administrator c.t.a.

Sometimes a decedent leaves a Will, but for some reason the persons or entities nominated to be executors are unable or unwilling to qualify. In this situation, the Court may appoint a PR who is not nominated in the Will. The title of this person will be Administrator c.t.a., which stands for a Latin term that translates to administrator to the will annexed.


Though the different terms may be confusing, they all boil down to the same thing: it is just the name for the person appointed by the Court to administer the estate. If you have questions about your role as PR, or if you are wondering if you should become the PR, call The Heritage Law Group to speak with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Heritage Law


With over thirty years of combined experience, we proudly serve the Virginia Peninsula, the Middle Peninsula, and Williamsburg. Our goal is to protect the personal and financial relationships that support your family. This includes preparation for times when you may be incapacitated and making arrangements for your family in the event of your death.