What is an Executor in Estate Planning?
An executor (also known as an executrix or personal representative in some states) is the person who ensures your will and last wishes are met. This person is either appointed by you (the testor) or the court, and their primary duty is to simply follow the instructions of the will and wishes of how you want to distribute your estate.
The executor’s duties are to best serve you, your wishes, and your beneficiaries. If they do not follow the instructions and the assets are left unaccounted for, they will face legal consequences.
Here is a list of just a few responsibilities of an executor:
- Finding and Organizing documents
- Pay Estate’s debts and taxes
- Take inventory
- Distribute Assets
- Transferring properties outside probate
- Pay funeral and burial expenses
- Care for assets until disbursed
One of the first responsibilities of an executor is to use the estate's funds to pay for funeral and/or burial expenses. This is important because the funeral home will then give the executor copies of the death certificate, which is needed in several aspects of their role.
For example, a death certificate will need to be shown to close any financial accounts, file final tax returns, and cancel any payments.
An executor's responsibilities also include locating, managing, and distributing the assets of the estate. This is where the benefits of having an attorney help with estate planning comes into play because the same attorney can assist the executor in locating and identifying assets through the prepared will.
Depending on your unique situation, things could get more tedious and complicated from here. An executor must determine the value of the property and determine if anything needs to be liquidated to pay any estate debts. All debts of a deceased person must be paid before beneficiaries can receive their gifts.
The executor must also pay the estate taxes – ideally, this was set up by the Principle during estate planning in a separate bank account. Once debts are paid, it’s also the responsibility of the executor to ensure all assets are properly taken care of and managed until fully disbursed.
You need an executor to ensure your last wishes are met and that your assets are passed on to your beneficiaries.
The executor that you choose not only handles the distribution of your assets, but also makes tax and debt payments and ensures all legal matters are handled. Mismanagement of the estate means that your beneficiaries lose a portion of your assets, so it’s critical to choose a professional that understands the legal aspects of managing estates.
It’s vital for an executor to pay close attention to detail of the estate plan and all documents within. They must take their time in the process because they are personally responsible if any mistake costs the beneficiaries their inheritance.
Depending on the estate, an executor’s responsibilities vary greatly. If chosen as an executor, you can decline the role or you seek the advice from an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney.
We specialize in business law and are more than happy to assist with advice on how to choose an executor. Choosing an executor is a big decision and can have a massive effect on how your assets are distributed after you have passed.
If you want more information on how to choose an executor or what an executor does, give us a call or contact us online. We offer a free consultation to first time customers and will make appointments on your schedule.
We are more than happy to help!