When you make plans for your loved ones and assets, ensure your intentions are carried out properly by carefully choosing an executor for your will.
Understanding the Role of An Executor
If you are establishing or updating your will or another form of estate plan, good for you! Obviously, it is difficult to confront the inevitability of death, but by doing so, you reduce stress for loved ones— and avoid having your personal decisions made by a court.
In addition to determining the distribution of your assets upon your death, you will need to appoint an executor to administer your affairs according to your intentions. In some regions, an executor is referred to as an administrator or personal representative.
As summarized by JD Supra:
The role of an executor is to wind up the affairs of a decedent, collect the assets belonging to the decedent, satisfy the decedent’s claims, and distribute to the decedent’s beneficiaries the assets remaining after estate settlement.
Choosing An Executor
Assuming your will is straightforward, you do not generally need to appoint a legal or financial expert to execute it, though you may choose to do so. Most frequently, spouses, siblings or children are chosen as executors. State laws vary, so it is always best to check local regulations before finalizing your decision about who will execute your will.
As FindLaw describes:
The key qualities that an executor needs are honesty, organization and communication. Honesty as a virtue speaks for itself. People often overlook, however, the necessity of being organized and the ability to communicate. The distribution of the will can become a mess if it is handled by someone who simply lacks these key qualities.
Generally, anyone can be your executor. The major exceptions to this are:
- Children under the age of 18 typically cannot be executors
- Felons typically cannot be executors
- Some states have limitations on out-of-state executors, requiring them to also be primary beneficiaries so check your state’s laws
- Some states require out-of-state executors to obtain a bond to insure the estate against wrongful use, so ensure that whoever you choose can cover such a bond and check your state’s laws
The Importance of Executor Bonds
Executor bonds are also referred to as probate bonds, fiduciary bonds, administrator bonds or personal representative bonds. These bonds are often required by courts to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law.
Often, when a will is prepared, it is a common practice is to waive the requirement of the executor to be bonded. Before you do this, you may want to consider the confidence all beneficiaries will have, knowing that the executor has taken this step.
Colonial Surety Company, a leading expert in the field, offers an easy, direct and digital way to obtain an executor bond. The steps are easy—get a quote online, fill out your information, and enter your payment method. Print or e-file the bond from your home or office. It’s that simple!
Advance Communication Is Key
Make sure you talk to your designated executor about your will and the intentions behind it. Confirm their ability to carry out your plan. It’s also a good idea to share your decision with other family and friends to avoid misunderstandings later. FindLaw recommends taking an extra step: designate an alternate executor. It’s helpful to have this back-up plan formally in place, in case the executor is ultimately unable to fulfill the responsibilities.
Remember too, that some of the more personal arrangements related to death do not necessarily fall to the executor. As JD Supra advises:
While it is the executor’s duty to fulfill the decedent’s wishes as expressed in the decedent’s Will, there are more personal aspects to a person’s death that do not squarely fall within an executor’s role. For example, who should notify the decedent’s family, friends or business colleagues of the decedent’s death? Who will prepare the decedent’s obituary, organize a family meeting or a memorial service?
As uncomfortable as these communications are, just remember that organizing ahead ultimately results in a clearer—and kinder— path forward for everyone.
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