Selecting an executor who will manage your estate after you die is an important decision. Choose the wrong person, and there could be vanishing funds, family feuds and costly legal battles. Most people look to a family member or trusted friend to handle the job.
Think of your executor as a chief administrator who will see the proper conclusion of your business affairs and distribution of your assets as you directed.
Executor check list
The first candidate you may think of is a favorite uncle who happens to be a certified financial planner and understands documents like wills and trusts. There is only one problem: Uncle Joe is 10 years older than you are and might not be around to assume the responsibility when you pass away. If you do not feel your spouse can handle the job and your children are still minors, consider a good friend, perhaps a detail-oriented business person. Ask if he or she is willing to serve as your executor before making the appointment, and be sure to let this person know the location of your will and other important documents.
Among the first responsibilities of an executor will be managing the arrangements for your funeral and burial, the costs for which will come out of your estate. Copies of the death certificate will be needed for the funeral home, the Social Security administration, life insurance companies, Veterans Administration, banks and other financial entities — wherever you have accounts. Your executor will also be responsible for filing any estate taxes as well as your final income tax return, and for paying bills using estate funds.
The value of an attorney
The attorney who prepares your will can help draw up a list of your assets, such as bank and investment accounts, business interests, collectibles, real property, and anything else of note that would help the executor. When you pass away, your attorney can also handle the legal requirement of notification to creditors. Most important, an attorney’s expertise would be very valuable if, in settling your estate, your executor has any questions or is in danger of missing a legal step for which he or she could be liable. The lawyer will support the executor you choose so that your final wishes can be carried out perfectly.