Let’s say that you’ve decided to set up a will (in lieu of a living trust) and you need to choose an executor. Who will you pick? What are their duties? How will you choose the right person?
Someone has to ensure that your final bills are paid and that your beneficiaries get their due. Many individuals will select a close family member to undertake this honor and responsibility. This is usually sufficient for most simple estates.
The basic duties of the executor are locating and securing the assets of the estate. This should include all real and personal property, the contents of any safe deposit boxes, and any other relevant financial information with regard to stocks, bonds and business holdings. At the same time, all debts owed by your estate are compiled. Because this may be a complicated process, most estates use the services of an attorney during this process.
Debts must be paid before any assets are dispersed, with priority given to the funeral director, any costs of administering the estate including maintaining insurance on the assets, and of course taxes. This will include filing income taxes for the current year and any estate tax due.
Once all the debts are retired, then the estate can file for probate. In the great majority of cases, the only thing remaining is for the executor to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the will.
It is advisable to designate alternates to serve as executor in the event that your primary choice is unwilling or unable to serve. Your chosen executor does not have to serve, and many wills designate an alternate or alternates just in case. If no one accepts the position, the probate court will appoint an administrator who will perform the same duties. Many executors serve at no cost, particularly if they are family members named in the will. Administrators and executors can charge the estate for services and payment is set by the probate court.
If you have questions about choosing an executor, contact our law firm at (512) 258-9455.
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