topic | life planning - legacy

Step 7: selecting an executor or personal representative

Selection of an executor is an important part of creating a Will. Similarly, for a Living Trust, one needs to appoint a Successor Trusteeof the estate.

An executor must be an adult, a U.S. citizen, and cannot have any felony convictions. There may be state specific restrictions, such as posting a bond, if the chosen executor is 'out-of-state'. The local probate office will be able to answer questions regarding these restrictions.

Executor Duties

The executor is responsible for the disposition of the estate assets as directed by the deceasedand supervised by the Probate Court. Legally required responsibilities include:

  • Locate and Probatethe Will
  • Make appropriate notifications to beneficiariesand creditors
  • Protect the Estate and secure personal property
  • Organize and Inventory Assets
  • Pay Creditors with legal claim
  • Pay state and federal taxes on the estate, as required
  • Pay professionals hired to act as executor or co-executor
  • Control distribution of non-probated personal property
  • Distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries

These responsibilities are described in greater detail in subsequent topics/steps of the step-by-step guide.

Activity 1
Choosing an Executor

There are many considerations to this critical decision, including:

  • Willingness to serve in this capacity for 9-18 months
  • Good organizational skills
  • Ability to resolve conflicts
  • Trustworthiness in carrying out the wishes of the decedent
  • Potential conflicts of interests between beneficiaries
  • Geographic proximity for performing the necessary tasks
  • Desire and ability for the estate to pay an executor
  • Previous experience as an executor
  • Preference for independent outsider versus close family relationship

Potential choices include a family member, a close personal friend, or a professional, such as an estate attorneyor bank official.

Be careful in making this important decision. The executor is often selected for emotional reasons or hierarchy within the family rather than the considerations listed above. This can create headaches later.

If selecting an executor based on family relationship, confirm that this person understands and accepts the duties and responsibilities involved.

A professional, unbiased executor may be the best option for large estates or when there is concern about family turmoil. Professionals, such asestate attorneys, CPAs, banks, and fiduciaries are fee based. Consult them before selection to ensure that the estate can afford required fees.

Best Practices

Consider having co-executors - one for family issues and the other for legal and financial responsibilities of the estate.

Activity 2
Appointing the Executor

Inform the executor of their appointment. Document the selection of the executor in the Will as explained in the previous Step.

(if this Step is complete)
to Step 8

Return to Step 6