Thursday, July 13, 2017
Naming an executor for your estate can be an emotionally trying process. Being named as an executor of an estate can be absolutely terrifying. Estate executors bear a considerable amount of responsibility along with legal and financial liability to beneficiaries and creditors.
Executors are responsible for settling estates and may come in the form of an individual or a financial institution. It is also possible for a trust company or a bank to serve alongside an individual executor. This pairing allows for the distribution of assets by a professional with oversight by a close friend or relative. When settling an estate, the executor will perform five basic functions: locate and hold onto assets until distribution, raise cash for the estate, pay for funeral expenses and various debts, handle taxes, and ensure that all assets are distributed in accordance with the will.
There are a number of important characteristics to keep in mind when choosing an executor. The first, and possibly most important, is integrity. A dishonest executor can subvert a decedent’s wishes and undermine a distribution plan. Second, an executor should have some knowledge of financial matters. They also need some background knowledge or understanding of taxes and their implications for the estate. Fourth, it is better if the executor is impartial. A family friend, spouse, or relative may be able to do the job, but may find it difficult to provide your rotten nephew with that substantial legacy. Next, an executor must be available to do the job. Settling an estate can take years. Individuals with full-time jobs and families of their own may find it daunting or impossible to shoulder an additional part-time position. Finally, estate executors need to be financially sound, as their errors may cost them personally.
Given the extensive requirements of an estate executor, consider hiring a firm that specializes in these activities.
See Selecting an Executor for Your Estate, Trust and Estate Planning, June 1, 2017.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.