Appointing an estate executor is an important decision that should considered carefully. Executors play an integral role of estate management and have multiple duties and responsibilities. Although most people designate their spouse or adult children to administer their estate upon death, this might not always be the best decision.
The responsibilities of estate executor can be challenging to handle on their own. Add in dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one and administration duties can be overwhelming. When family strife exists, estate executor's often receive the brunt of anger and are destined to cope with heirs contesting the Will.
When choosing an estate executor, it is best to discuss the decision with the person whom you feel would be best suited to fulfill required duties. While it can be difficult to share personal information about your estate, information provided to the executor ahead of time can help them be more efficient with estate administration.
One of the most important items to discuss is the location of your last will, life insurance policies, financial portfolios, and legal documents such as motor vehicle and real estate titles. The first duty of the estate executor involves submitting the last will through the probate court. The exception is if an estate is protected through a trust.
Probate is a process required in all 50 states to validate the Will and distribute inheritance assets. The probate process can last between three and nine months, or longer if heirs contest the Will. During probate, estate executor duties can include securing all assets owned by the decedent and obtaining property appraisals for valuable items such as real estate, motor vehicles, jewelry, art, antiques and collectibles.
When decedents own financial portfolios the estate executor must obtain date-of-death values from the financial institution where portfolios are held. Documents must be provided to the county tax assessor's office to validate the decedent does not owe back taxes. If taxes are owed, the personal probate representative must pay taxes through the estate. The tax assessor must validate taxes are fully paid before financial holdings can be distributed to beneficiaries.
When real estate is involved, estate executors are responsible for securing the property and paying related expenses through the estate. When decedents are married, the surviving spouse generally retains ownership of the property. If decedents are single, they can bequeath real estate to multiple heirs. All beneficiaries must be in agreement if they decide to sell the property during probate.
There are multiple facets to estate administration. Much depends on estate value, types of inheritance assets and how well family members get along. Estate executors can enlist the help of a probate attorney or estate planner when necessary. Legal and probate management fees are paid through the estate and are not the responsibility of the Administrator.
Individuals must be at least 18 years of age and never convicted of a felony to become estate executor. It is best to designate an adult who is good with finances; capable of making difficult decisions; and able to work under stressful situations.
Strategies can be implemented to avoid probate or minimize estate executor duties. We invite you to learn more about estate planning in our wills and probate article library. Presently, we have nearly 40 estate planning articles. New articles are added on a weekly basis, so take a moment to subscribe to our mailing list and be instantly notified when new information is published.