One of the most important decisions you will make when you execute your Last Will an Testament is choosing your Executor. Despite the importance of this decision, most people give the appointment very little thought. To help ensure that you don’t make this mistake, the Fargo probate attorneys at German Law Group discuss who you should appoint as your Executor.
Over the course of a lifetime, almost everyone acquires assets that comprise their estate at the time of their death. Some people amass a huge estate that includes complex and valuable assets while other people own little more than their personal possessions at the time of death. Regardless of the size and value of assets owned by a decedent, those assets must be identified, valued, and passed down to the new owners. That is the primary purpose of the legal process known as probate. Before those assets are passed down, however, there are a number of steps an Executor must oversee during the probate process. Appointing the right person as your Executor will greatly improve the odds of the probate process running smoothly and as expected.
What Does an Executor Do?
Your Executor is responsible for administering your estate. Among the most important duties and responsibilities of an Executor are:
- Identifying and protecting estate assets. The first thing any Executor must do is to locate all relevant estate planning documents which may include a Will, trust agreement, life insurance policies, and/or Letter of Instruction among others. These documents should provide information regarding the estate assets which must all be identified and secured at the beginning of the probate process.
- Notifying creditors and paying claims. All known creditors can be personally notified that probate is underway but for unknown creditors, the Executor must notify them via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors have a statutory period of time within which they must file a claim against the estate. The Executor evaluates each claim filed and approves or denies the claim. Approved claims are paid out of the available estate assets.
- Litigating any claims. Disputes are far from uncommon during the probate of an estate. If a beneficiary or heir questions the validity of the Will submitted for probate a Will contest might be initiated. The Executor is required to defend the Will throughout the ensuing litigation.
- Calculating and paying taxes. Every estate is potentially subject to federal (and sometimes state) gift and estate taxes. The Executor is responsible for determining if the estate owes estate taxes and, if it does, the tax must be paid out of estate assets. An error in the calculations used on the estate tax return could be devastating to the overall probate of the estate.
- Distributing estate assets. The Executor is responsible for preparing any legal documents necessary to effectuate the transfer of the remaining assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
Choosing Your Executor
Before you appoint someone close to you, such as a spouse, sibling, or best friend, as your Executor because you know they care about you, take some time to decide if they are really the best choice. Ask yourself if the individual is capable and/or willing to properly administer your estate. In addition, consider the following questions when choosing your Executor:
- Does the individual have a legal or financial background that might be beneficial during the probate process?
- Does this person have the time to devote to probating your estate?
- Does the person live too far away to be the Executor?
- Does your estate include real property that will require management during the probate of your estate? If so, you really need a local Executor.
- Is the proposed Executor good at conflict resolution?
- Will the appointment of this person spark conflict?
- Does the individual want to be your Executor? Never assume the answer to this question is yes because often loved ones do not want the stress of administering the estate of a recently deceased loved one.
Contact a Probate Attorney
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about appointing an Executor, contact the probate attorney at German Law Group by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.