Although people often fail to realize it, one of the most important decision you will make when creating your Last Will and Testament is deciding who to appoint as your Executor. To help you choose the right person for the job, a Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas Law Group discusses the role of an Executor.
Over the course of a lifetime, almost everyone acquires assets that comprise their estate at the time of their death. Some people amass a huge estate that includes complex and valuable assets while other people own little more than their personal possessions at the time of death. Regardless of the size and value of assets owned by a decedent, those assets must be identified, valued, and passed down to the new owners. That is the primary purpose of the legal process known as probate. Before those assets are passed down, however, there are a number of steps an Executor must oversee during the probate process. Appointing the right person as your Executor will greatly improve the odds of the probate process running smoothly and as expected.
What Are the Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor?
The overall job of your Executor is to administer your estate during the probate process. Some of the specific duties and responsibilities of an Executor include:
- Identifying and protecting the estate assets. The first thing any Executor must do is to locate all relevant estate planning documents which may include a Will, trust agreement, life insurance policies, and/or Letter of Instruction among others. These documents should provide information regarding the estate assets which must all be identified and secured at the beginning of the probate process.
- Notifying creditors and paying claims. All known creditors can be personally notified that probate is underway but for unknown creditors the Executor must notify them via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors have a statutory period of time within which they must file claim against the estate. The Executor evaluates each claim filed and approves or denies the claim. Approved claims are paid out of the available estate assets.
- Litigating any claims. Disputes are far from uncommon during the probate of an estate. If a beneficiary or heir questions the validity of the Will submitted for probate a Will contest might be initiated. The Executor is required to defend the Will throughout the ensuing litigation.
- Calculating and paying taxes. Every estate is potentially subject to federal (and sometimes state) gift and estate taxes. The Executor is responsible for determining if the estate owes estate taxes and, if it does, the tax must be paid out of estate assets. An error in the calculations used on the estate tax return could be devastating to the overall probate of the estate.
- Distributing estate assets. The Executor is responsible for preparing any legal documents necessary to effectuate the transfer of the remaining assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
How Do I Choose the Right Person for My Executor?
A common, yet understandable, mistake people make when appointing an Executor is to simply choose someone close to them based solely on the fact that they are a family member or close friend. To avoid making this mistake, ask yourself a few simple questions when contemplating a candidate for Executor, including:
- Is this someone who will be grieving your death? If the answer is yes, will that grief prevent them from carrying out the duties required of an Executor?
- Is this someone who has the time to devote to probating your estate?
- Does the individual have a legal or financial background that might be beneficial during the probate process?
- Does the person live too far away to be the Executor?
- Will this person be able to resolve conflicts?
- Will the appointment of this person create conflict?
- Is this someone who wants to be your Executor? Never assume the answer to this question is yes because not everyone wants the responsibility that acting as an Executor entails.
Contact a Vero Beach Estate Planning Attorney
To learn more, please download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about who to appoint as your Executor, please contact an experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas Law Group by calling (772) 398-0720 to discuss your legal options.