Executing a will is a big responsibility. It takes time and patience, and the administrative chores can be an extra challenge for those grieving. When you create a will, be thoughtful in your selection and communication with the person you designate to execute it for you.
A Big Job
As CNBC explains, the role of executor is a big job:
This is the person in charge of everything from filing your will with the court to paying off your debts, closing accounts and making sure your remaining assets are distributed as specified in your will. (Be aware that some assets — such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies — are distributed based on the named beneficiary on the account, not what is stated in a will.)
This means, for starters, that the person needs to be trustworthy and organized. They also need to juggle the job with their other life responsibilities, Davis said.
It takes nearly 16 months on average to settle an estate, according to online software provider estateexec.com. Those worth less than $10,000 settle more quickly (11 months on average), while estates worth more than $5 million take the longest to wrap up: 42 months (3.5 years).
Though the process differs a little bit in each state, generally, the first task of your chosen executor will be filing the death certificate with an original copy of your will in probate court. The executor will then be given a letter of testamentary, officially recognizing them as the executor and enabling them to begin taking actions on behalf of the estate. Executors have a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries, avoiding conflicts of interest. That’s why probate courts sometimes request executors to obtain a type of fiduciary bond known as an executor or estate bond. Colonial Surety Company, a leading national fiduciary bond provider, makes obtaining executor and other bonds quick and easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter the payment method. Instantly print or e-file the bond right from anywhere—even the lawyer’s office or probate court. Obtain an Executor Bond Here.
When you ask someone to serve as your executor, in addition to making sure they have the time and ability to do so, be sure you review both your intentions and practical matters—like the whereabouts of documents, accounts and passwords. This will really help curtail some of the stress that your executor may experience.
Does it lessen the burden to name two, executors? Though it can be a good idea to name a “contingency” executor, experts caution against naming two executors, because sharing duties can actually add complexity. For example, documents might require both signatures—lengthening the time it takes to get anything done. Fortunately, many states now have expedited probate processes. Unpaid taxes, debts, conflicts among family members or contested wills are examples of what can cause complexities and delays during probate.
Make sure your designated executor understands the importance of keeping beneficiaries up to date during the probate process, as this helps avoid misunderstandings. Executors must also be prepared to document all of the transactions conducted on behalf of the estate too—probate reports will expect an accounting as the process wraps up.
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