Most people know that it’s essential to have a Will as a part of a complete estate plan. A necessary part of the planning process is selecting the right Executor.
Making the correct decision will help to ensure proper distribution of your possessions, and avoidance of family friction. When you choose an Executor, you are putting this person or institution in charge of administering your estate and carrying out your final wishes.
What are the Executor’s responsibilities?
The person you choose to be your Executor will have various responsibilities that include:
Filling out court papers and gathering documentation to start the probate process. Generally, the probate process is required by law to determine if the Will is genuine and properly executed according to state statutes.
- Taking inventory – establishing everything in the estate
- Using the funds from the estate to pay bills, taxes, funeral costs.
- Terminating credit cards, notifying banks, post offices, Social Security, etc.
- Filing and preparing final income tax returns.
- Distributing the assets in the Will to the named beneficiaries.
Given that the Executor is responsible for all these duties, he or she should be honest, dependable, well-organized, and good with paperwork. The person you choose should also be very good at meeting deadlines, keeping track of dates and records. They should also be responsible enough to know that professionals (such as an estate planning attorney and CPA) are most likely needed to make sure everything is handled correctly, and that they shouldn’t be doing everything themselves.
Choosing the right person
Many people assume that an Executor should be a family member, usually an adult child or spouse. However, if you’re not comfortable with close relatives, you may want to consider a close friend. Be sure to choose someone in good health or younger than you are, who will likely be around longer than you will be.
You can also choose a third-party Executor--a bank, trust company, or another professional who knows how to manage estates. A third-party Executor is usually the last resort if you do not feel comfortable with family members in charge of these duties and responsibilities.
Keep in mind that although your Executor of choice may live in another state, only an attorney licensed in the state where you reside and have assets can handle your estate. It’s important to speak to an estate planning attorney in the jurisdiction where your Will is written and will be admitted to probate.
Clear it with the future Executor before making it official
You should always make sure that the person you want to be your Executor is up to the task. It is best not to name anyone as your Executor without first making sure they are comfortable with you appointing them. You will also want to make sure that you go over any less than obvious details that are in your Will as well as where you keep all your important papers and financial information. This will make it easier for them to do their job when the time comes. The right estate planning attorney will assist you with this and help you organize your belongings to make it as easy as possible for anyone you choose as your Executor.