An executor — also known as a personal representative — is the person responsible for overseeing the probating of your will after you pass. This includes paying any debts or taxes on behalf of the estate and making sure beneficiaries receive their inheritances. Depending on the size and complexity of your estate, the executor’s job can be accomplished quickly and easily or it can take longer and be more complicated.
Reasons to choose an executor
If you die without a proper will, or if you have a will without an executor named, the court will determine who should be your personal representative. This could be your spouse, your adult children, or your closest relative. By choosing an executor ahead of time, you can garner some control over who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes when you die. However, it’s important to note that the executor you’ve named could possibly be opposed in court if others who survive you do not accept the appointed person as capable. And if there is cause, the court can choose someone else to serve in the role.
In order to be as thorough as possible, you’ll want to name a primary and secondary executor for your estate. The primary executor is simply called, the executor. The secondary executor is your back up. This is the person who will manage your estate in the case that your main executor is unable or unwilling to perform their duties. This back-up person is called the successor executor or the successor representative.
Duties of an executor
Whatever the size of the estate, though, the executor is generally responsible for carrying out the following actions:
- Managing the estate. This includes taking an inventory of assets, marshalling the assets, documenting and paying the debts of the estate, and ultimately handling the distribution of the estate.
- Representing the estate in any probate proceedings. This includes filing the will with the probate court and determining whether the estate is eligible for a streamlined probate process.
- Determining who the inheritors are. This also includes properly distributing assets to the inheritors.
- Paying debts and taxes. This may include notifying creditors of the probate proceeding, and filing a final tax return on behalf of the deceased.
- Setting up a bank account to settle the estate. This may help with keeping a clean record of money that is owed and delivered after death. This includes final paychecks, stock dividends, or payment of debts owed to the deceased.
- Paying any ongoing expenses. The executor may be responsible for making final payments on utilities, a mortgage, or insurance premiums.
Working with professionals to settle the estate
While the executor is responsible for the completion of these tasks, the executor does not have to be the only person working on completing these tasks. For example, the executor may hire an attorney to help with probate proceedings, or an accountant to help with handling financial matters. In many cases, provisions can be made in the will to pay for the engagement of these types of professionals.
Have a chat about your estate
While an executor has no duties or responsibilities before a death has occurred, it’s very helpful to discuss or explain the nature of your estate. This can help the person you've named as your executor feel prepared for the job, and ask any questions or express any concerns ahead of time.
Things to Consider
- The executor of the will can have many responsibilities, be sure to pick someone who is up for the task.
- Never choose a person out of obligation or because you feel you have to; make sure you pick the person best suited for the job.
- You can make provisions in your will that ensures your executor works with professions to more efficiently settle your estate.
- Have a discussion with your executor to make sure they’re up for the job and have a general idea about your estate.
This article is provided by Everplans — a life and legacy planning company dedicated to transforming the way people get their families organized. For more information, visit: everplans.com
Neither Transamerica nor its agents or representatives may provide tax, investment or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax and legal advisors and financial professional regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.