When a will is made, an executor is named to execute it. Typically, adult children or other close friends or relations are designated. Be sure, however, that whoever you name understands that real responsibilities are involved and must be undertaken in a timely manner. Read on for pointers from estate planning professionals.
Serving as an executor requires a commitment of time–-and that starts when the role is first accepted. Though no one enjoys talking about the death of a loved one, when the luxury of time is on our side, it’s important to use it. Preparatory conversations about intentions and worries, as well as pragmatics, such as account information, document location, passwords and so on turn out to be incredibly helpful down the road. Afterall, the grief that naturally accompanies serious illness and death holds little room for the added stress of playing detective. As attorney Richard Humiston of Frantz Ward sums up:
An Executor’s job is to make sure that the terms of your Will are carried out in a timely fashion. To accomplish this, your Executor has several duties, which include identifying and determining the value of your assets as of the time of your death, collecting all assets of the estate, paying debts, expenses, and taxes, if any, and distributing the remainder to the heirs. An Executor must also complete various filings with the Probate Court to apprise the Court of the status of the estate administration….
The key to being a good Executor is taking the duties it entails seriously. An effective Executor understands that their actions can have a significant impact on how quickly and accurately the estate is administered. This individual must be willing to be diligent in the identification and distribution of assets, and timely in their interaction with the Court.
Lawyers also remind us that as fiduciaries, executors have the legal obligation to ensure compliance with the state probate process. An executor bond may be required, to guarantee duties will be carried out in accordance with the law. As a leading national provider of many types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety makes it easy and efficient to obtain an executor bond. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even before leaving probate court or the law office.
Patience, Communication, And…
Patience is an essential quality for executors: even as beneficiaries await swift delivery of the assets and gifts designated for them, executors must adhere to the public probate process. Debts must be paid before assets can be distributed. Though there is nothing inherently bad about probate, the process is likely to take some time—a year or so is fairly common. As time goes by, it’s critical for executors to keep communications flowing to beneficiaries, creditors, and the court. Silence can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts and even probate litigation. Estate planning experts note that in addition to patience and good communication skills, practicalities like location, tech savvy and health are also worth considering when designating an executor:
An Executor that resides in the same geographical area in which your Estate will be administered, while not required, is generally preferable. Access to real property, personal property and financial records, as well as being able to swiftly execute and file documents with the Court or complete in-person transactions with financial institutions, often makes for a quicker estate administration….
With the rise of electronic banking, many account statements and the like are delivered electronically. A tech-savvy Executor can save significant administration time by knowing how to quickly access financial records available on-line….
A potential Executor…might be limited by their age or health status. The key question is: does the potential Executor’s age and health status hamper their ability to carry out their duties?….If you’re unsure, you may consider also naming as Successor Executor someone whose age and health status are not a concern.
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