Once you have decided to create a Last Will and Testament, one of your first major decisions regarding your will is to appoint an executor. Here is an in-depth explanation of the role of an executor and how to go about selecting the right person for the job.
Think of the executor as a personal assistant to your estate and will. This person is responsible for ensuring all wishes, decisions, and instructions laid out in your will are carried out completely and correctly. The executor must also work closely with the probate court to guarantee legal requirements are covered.
Even though the testator makes the initial selection of their executor, the actual appointment is officially made by the probate court after the testator has passed away.
The process begins when the testator’s estate is “opened” before the court. The will must also be filed with the court along with a death certificate. The request to appoint the executor is made at the same time as the other filing. Generally, this is all handled by the chosen executor, although an estate attorney, separate from the executor, can also begin the process.
The executor may or may not need help from an attorney who specializes in probate. The court may require the estate to appoint legal counsel.
If you do not choose an executor in your will, your loved ones can still make that decision for you after you die. If the family cannot agree on an executor, the probate court will step in and make the choice for them. Appointing an executor can reduce stress and additional complications related to your will.
The primary responsibility of the executor is to ensure the instructions in the testator’s will are carried out fully and completely. Another main job of the executor is working with the court to get the testator’s estate moved through probate as quickly as possible.
Because the executor is tasked with carrying out the instructions and wishes in the will, this person is given authority to access bank accounts and review the sensitive financial information of the estate.
After the court has officially appointed the executor, they must begin gathering up all parts of the testator’s estate. This includes insurance policies, bank financial statements, and the deed(s) or paperwork concerning any real property owned by the testator. After all the estate’s assets have been verified, the total worth of the estate is calculated and the information is submitted to the probate court.
The next step in the process is settling any debts against the estate. This must be done before any assets are divided off to the beneficiaries. This task also includes paying off and closing accounts (i.e. credit cards) and making notifications of the testator’s death to any of the accounts. The executor is also responsible for contacting the insurance company and any government agencies (i.e. Social Security Administration) and sending any required documentation.
After all the proper notifications have been made and any outstanding debts have been settled, the next job of the executor is to distribute the testator’s estate to their beneficiaries. Part of the distributing process may include writing checks, handing over title paperwork, or even selling assets or property to be divided amongst beneficiaries.
The responsibility of an executor for a Last Will and Testament is an important and highly detailed administrative role. It requires a highly responsible and trustworthy individual who will guarantee all the details related to the will are fully honored.
Such an appointment should not be made lightly and should be discussed with that person so they are completely aware of all responsibilities that come with this position.
There are a few legal requirements to keep in mind when choosing the executor for your estate: