Selecting an executor is a big part of the estate planning process. You may have seen lists of attributes that your prospective candidate should have. An executor is a fiduciary, or someone who operates on the legal behalf of another, such as a deceased individual and their heirs. An executor must exhibit a high degree of honesty and trustworthiness in conducting themselves.
What you might not have seen emphasized, though, is the importance of ensuring that your candidate for this role is well-informed about their responsibilities. Both you and the person you choose should understand those responsibilities.
What responsibilities does an executor have?
Fiduciaries such as executors must be primed to act in the best interest of the estate they represent. They must do this when handling the responsibilities of an executor, including:
- Filing the testator’s will with the probate court
- Make contact with heirs and beneficiaries
- Inventorying and safeguarding all the testator’s assets
- Notifying creditors of the testator’s passing and settling up with them
- Filing the testator’s final tax return
- Distributing a testator’s assets to their heirs
An executor may have to open a bank account for the estate and provide the probate court with an accounting of the use of funds as part of the process described above.
Why it’s often challenging to find an executor
Serving in the role of executor isn’t appropriate for just anyone. Some candidates may not feel they have the necessary acumen to preserve the value of the real estate or investments as they need to during the probate process. Others may not have the time to invest in tracking down your assets, heirs, creditors and probate court. These are some concerns you’ll want to address with your candidate for this role before appointing them.