Understanding the Role of an Executor

The executor is an important part of any deceased person’s estate. This person will carry out your wishes as they are laid out in your will. Understanding just what an executor does can help you decide who would be the right choice for your estate. Giving your executor a heads up about their new role is also a good idea. Choosing the right executor is vital to your estate plan as many estates can take months to years to be fully administered.

Desirable Characteristics of an Executor

Executors must carry out certain tasks that often deal with both legal and financial matters. Although some executors may have this type of experience, others may need to hire out these tasks. Regardless, perhaps the most important characteristics for an executor are things that cannot be delegated—honesty, diligence, and being unbiased.

If an executor takes action that is contrary to what the will requires, it can cause losses for the beneficiaries, and the executor can be found personally liable for those damages under the law in some circumstances.

A dishonest executor can create problems for everyone mentioned in your will. It may be helpful to name an alternate executor to help deal with these types of situations, or the court will appoint another executor if there are problems with the first one.

What Does an Executor Do?

An executor will offer your will for probate. Although he or she can complete this process on their own, it is often completed with the help of a probate or estate planning attorney. Assets cannot be distributed without offering the will for probate and obtaining the approval of a probate judge.

As part of the probate process, the executor will take certain actions to protect assets in the will, such as valuing assets and selling specific items. Liquidating assets can be a time-consuming process. Simply storing certain items may also be part of the executor’s role.

He or she will also pay the debts and taxes of the estate. The executor will often use estate funds to pay for funeral and burial expenses as well. All of the debts must be paid in full before beneficiaries can receive any assets from the estate.

Finally, and perhaps the executor’s most well-known role, he or she will pay the beneficiaries according to your direction as set out in the will. The executor is responsible for caring for all of the assets in the estate before distributing them.

Giving Your Executor the Right Tools

It is important to ensure that everything you want your executor to do is clearly listed in the will; his or her abilities only extend as far as you have dictated in your will.

The funeral home will often provide the executor with a death certificate. This certificate is an important tool to close up personal and financial aspects of your life after your death. For example, the executor will need a death certificate to stop federal or state benefit payments, close your financial accounts, and file the final tax return.

An estate planning attorney plays two roles when it comes to executors: (1) helping you name the right one and setting up your will so that it is easy on your agent and (2) assisting executors in understanding and carrying out their duties. Call Legacy Planning Law Group to discuss either of these important roles.

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Written by Legacy Planning Law Group

Legacy Planning Law Group is dedicated to working with individuals and families to help protect the assets they have built throughout their life, and make everything simpler for families who have lost a loved one. We help thoughtful people achieve the peace of mind that comes with planning their personal legacy and passing on family harmony.