Creating even a basic estate plan requires you to make several important decisions. While many of those decisions will be directly related to the disposition of your estate assets after you are gone, one of the most important decisions is your choice of Executor. The Essex Junction estate planning attorneys at Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC explain what your Executor does and offers some questions to consider when choosing your Executor.
What Does an Executor Do?
The law typically requires the estate of a decedent to go through the legal process known as probate. If the decedent died testate, meaning with a valid Last Will and Testament in place, the individual named as the Executor in that Will is the person who will oversee the administration of the estate during the probate process. An Executor has a wide range of duties and responsibilities during the probate of an estate. Some of the most common of those include:
- Reviewing estate planning documents. An original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament must be located, and certified copies of the decedent’s death certified ordered. Any additional estate planning documents should also be located and reviewed.
- Identifying, locating, and securing assets. The Executor must identify, locate, and secure estate assets.
- Deciding if formal probate is required. A preliminary decision must be made regarding whether formal probate is required.
- Categorizing and valuing assets. The Executor decides if assets are probate or non-probate assets and must obtain a date of death value for all probate assets.
- Initiating probate. Typically, a certified copy of the death certificate, an original copy of the decedent’s Will, and a petition to open probate are required to initiate probate.
- Notifying creditors and reviewing claims. The Executor must notify all creditors. Known creditors may be notified individually while unknown creditors are notified via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors then have a statutory amount of time to file a claim against the estate which must be reviewed by the Executor. Approved claims are paid using estate assets.
- Defending the estate. If the estate is involved in a Will contest (or other litigation), the Executor is required to defend the Will (or estate) throughout the litigation process.
- Paying taxes. The Executor must determine if any state and/or federal gift and estate taxes are due from the estate and, if so, pay the tax debt out of estate assets.
- Distributing assets. At the end of the probate process the Executor must prepare any necessary legal documents to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries. The Executor may also be required to submit a final accounting to the court.
Questions to Ask When Deciding Who to Appoint as Your Executor
People often fill in the name of a spouse or close friend as their Executor without giving the choice much thought. Before you do that, consider the following questions to ensure that you appoint the right person for the job:
- Does the individual have a legal or financial background that might be beneficial during the probate process?
- Will this person be grieving your loss? If so, will that grief interfere with his/her ability to act as Executor?
- Does this person have the time to devote to probating your estate?
- Does the person live too far away to be the 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? If not, consider someone else because your chosen Executor can refuse the job.
Contact Essex Junction Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please attend one of our upcoming FREE webinars. If you have questions or concerns regarding a who to appoint as the Executor of your estate, contact the experienced Essex Junction estate planning attorneys at Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC by calling 802-879-7133 to schedule your appointment today.