You may view estate planning as the act of drawing up a last will. In fact, you have other choices with regard to legal devices that facilitate asset transfers, but this is a topic for another post.
If you do use a last will to arrange for the future transfer of your assets, how do you think your wishes as stated on paper will actually come to fruition in real life? Someone must follow these written instructions. This “someone” is the executor of the estate.
To provide clarity we should mention the fact that you may see the term “executrix” as well as executor. A female who acts as an estate administrator could be referred to as an executrix rather than an executor. However, the term executor can describe an administrator of either gender.
Responsibilities of an Executor
You may envision an executor acting independently, with his or her only interactions being among family members who are named in the will. This is really not the way that estate administration works. The executor, or someone else who was close to the decedent, must admit the will to probate.
During probate the business of the estate is conducted. The heirs may not be the only interested parties. The decedent may have outstanding debts. These must be settled during probate, and this is something that the executor must do on behalf of the estate.
The executor must ultimately prepare the assets that comprise the estate for distribution to the heirs according to the wishes of the decedent as recorded in the last will. Depending on the nature of the resources in question this can be a multifaceted endeavor.
Preparation of the assets can include the need for appraisals and liquidation of property.
Qualities of Ideal Executor
Depending on the case in question, the process of estate administration can be time-consuming. Therefore, you should choose an executor who has the time to handle all of the responsibilities that will come along with the job.
As you can see from the basic description of the responsibilities that we have shared above, the role of the executor is not an honorary or ceremonial one. There are real-world business tasks that must be undertaken. Your executor should be someone who is in possession of a good bit of business acumen.
Your executor should ideally be without significant conflicts of interests so that he or she is viewed as being above reproach by the heirs to the estate.
In addition, you should consider the geographical location and age of any candidate that you are considering. You do not want to choose an executor who lives across the country who has a good chance of passing away before you do.
Parman & Easterday