An executor is a person appointed in a Last Will and Testament (Will) to administer all matters relating to an estate. Usually an executor is a family member, trusted friend or professional adviser, such as an accountant or attorney. It is possible to appoint an institution as an executor. While agreeing to handle the final affairs in the event of your death may be easy, for the executor of an estate, the job itself can be quite tasking. Executors are required to administer an estate with the highest degree of trust and honesty, and in a timely manner. This is called a fiduciary duty—an obligation to act in the best interest of another party.
Any person over the age of 18, who has not been convicted of a felony can be named the executor of a Will. An executor should be someone trustworthy and honest, and who is able and willing to handle the stress that can come with this responsibility. Depending on the complexity of an estate, some of the executor’s duties could include the following:
- Locate and value the estate of the deceased;
- Determine if it is necessary to go through probate court;
- Notify the appropriate agencies, institutions or people of the death, such as the Social Security Administration, post office and banks;
- Cancel all leases and lines of credit;
- Locate creditors and pay outstanding and ongoing debts;
- Collect money owed to the deceased;
- Monitor the distribution of assets, according to terms of the Will or trust, and
- File the final tax returns.
An executor’s job may last a few months to a couple of years. If you want someone to be the executor of your estate, it is important to check that he is willing to do so, and discuss the duties with him before making the appointment in your Will. It is advisable to have him read your Will to have an idea of what your wishes are after you die. He should know beforehand if there will be disagreeable or disinherited family members, or those who might try to cause problems with the administering of your estate.
While an executor is not required by law to be an expert in legal or financial matters, he can be held personally responsible for anything that may go wrong, such as, not filing the correct tax information. An executor can, and often should, seek the guidance of a professional to avoid costly mistakes. Professional fees incurred are generally paid from the estate assets. In addition, it is advisable to discuss expectations, and have him talk to the attorney who prepared your Will to understand what should happen when you die.
In the event that your primary choice for executor becomes unavailable or declines the responsibility, it is advisable that you name an alternate executor to serve. You can appoint joint executors to lessen the load of administering your estate and to ensure continuity, if one of the executors should resign or die.
If an executor is not named in your Will, a petition must be filed in probate court to have an administrator appointed. To qualify, one must be legally competent and the age of majority.
When you have chosen and appointed the executor in your Will, it is important to maintain an updated Will, so that your executor carries out your intended wishes. This should ensure that your assets and loved ones are protected once you die. For more information regarding this topic, please contact Henssler Financial at 770-429-9166 or [email protected].