Wills and Executors – Need to Know Tips

Wills receive a lot of attention. Even though the number of people who actually follow-though on the creation of a will is still small, everyone knows the role a will plays in an estate and why it’s a good idea to have one. Receiving less attention is the role of the executor in the successful implementation of wills. Your choice for the executor of your estate is one of the most important decisions you will make. It is the decision that will have the greatest impact on your loved ones after your death, and it’s the decision that, if poorly made, will be impossible for you to fix when it is most crucial.

The executor of the estate has many responsibilities, some of which most people are not aware of. The executor must manage your assets while your final wishes are being implemented. Most people don’t realize that it takes approximately six months for even a well-planned estate to be processed.

During this time, your executor must do everything from paying taxes to arranging for lawn care. These duties not only place a considerable time burden on your executor, but also requires him or her to keep detailed records. In many states, executors are financially responsible if they mismanage the estate. Even well-meaning executors could find themselves successfully sued if they maintain careless records.

For the sakes of both your executor and your beneficiaries, it’s important that you choose the right person to handle your affairs after you are gone. Obviously, this person must be trustworthy. However, honesty is only the first of many qualities that define a good executor.

The following questions will help you determine if you’ve made the right choice for executor of your estate.

  • Is this person financially secure?

Desperation can blur the lines for even the most trustworthy among us. Remember that your executor will have access to all of your financial accounts and will be using the funds to maintain your estate. Don’t put a loved one who may be financially stressed in a difficult position.

  • Is this person comfortable with legal complexities?

Being an executor encompasses many duties. Some of these duties involve not only knowing the law, but performing tasks in a way that is most advantageous to the estate. Most likely, your executor will not know everything about probate. But will he or she know where to find answers? Most importantly, will he or she ask the right questions?

  • Will this person be able to perform his or her duties in the face of biases and pressures?

Beneficiaries may not like how you decided to distribute your assets. Conversely, they may be impatient for their inheritances. Make sure that the person you designate can handle the emotional pressures of his or her role.

  • What requirements does you state have for executors?

Probate law varies by state. Some states have requirements for executors. A common requirement dictates that executors must live in the state where probate is being conducted. Check you state’s laws to verify that the person you choose is legally able to uphold your wishes.