Executor of Will: Who should it be?

Many times people keep too many secrets. One circumstance that it is not a good idea to keep your intentions private is in naming an executor of your will or trustee under your trust document.

The settlement of your estate will require that those named executor under the will to accept and execute certain executor duties. These duties and responsibilities may in fact, create legal and financial liabilities for the executor.

It is critical that the creator of the will (testator) talk to the proposed executor of the estate and give them a sense of what is involved in settling the affairs of the estate. 

Many times, the estate is settled in a different state than where the executor lives. There are numerous circumstances that may arise that prevent the executor from properly performing their executor duties.

Questions to ask a proposed executor of will:

  • Can you take time off work to handle the affairs of the estate?
  • Can you travel to manage and sell the decedents property?
  • Do you have the capacity to keep good records when dealing with other people’s finances and assets?
  • Do you have the physical capacity to clean out a house, travel, attend meetings with attorneys, realtors and courts?
  • Will the death of the decedent and grieving process likely result an impairment of the executor of will completing their duties.
  • Do you have an interest and aptitude to understand the complexities of the legal process of probate and estate settlement and accept the responsibilities?
  • Can the executor of will candidate resolve conflicts within a family yet still maintain authority and control on important issues or will they “cave in” to keep other people happy?

If any of these questions are a no or even a maybe; further discussions should take place between the person creating the will and the proposed executor of will.  

It is important to realize that when the executor candidate is a family member or close friend, the death can cause the bereavement to be overwhelming. It is not uncommon for the most competent person to become paralyzed with grief and not eat, sleep or have the ability to concentrate.

Loved ones can and do suffer through grief for months and even years. Has the executor of will handled stress well? Have they dealt with a serious death before?

An Executor of Will must be:

  • Appointed by the local probate court to assume executor duties
  • An adult (minors cannot serve as an executor of will)
  • Not be convicted of a felony
  • Other requirements may apply see state statutes

10 things an Executor of Will must do:

  • Find original last will and testament and delivery of it to the local probate court
  • Find, protect and preserve all assets in the estate
  • Determine who the beneficiaries are
  • Review the tilting of assets to determine method of estate transfer
  • Open an estate checking account
  • Pay estate debt and on going bills
  • Keep accurate records
  • Pay taxes: Final federal 1040 income tax (and state) for year of death. Subsequent estate income tax returns 1041’s. Federal estate tax return form 706 (if required). Local property taxes (land and property)
  • Distribute assets to beneficiaries
  • Close out estate settlement process
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