Choosing an executor of your estate does not have to be a difficult process, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind. For most people, the first estate planning document they create is a Last Will and Testament. When you create your Will, it is likely that your focus will be on the gifts that you wish to leave your loved ones. While the distribution of your estate assets is an important aspect of creating your Will, the appointment of an Executor is also important. In fact, your choice of Executor is probably much more important that you realize. To help you better understand the importance of choosing the right Executor, our estate planning attorneys share the five reasons to appoint the right Executor for your estate.
Choosing An Executor: Duties and Responsibilities
In general, the Executor of your estate is responsible for overseeing the probate process after your death. People often make the mistake of naming an Executor without actually giving much thought to who they are appointing. To ensure that you don’t make that mistake, consider the following five reasons to appoint the right Executor.
- Your Executor secures and manages your assets during probate. All of your estate assets must be secured and managed throughout the probate process. Your Executor is responsible for making sure all of those assets are not just identified, but also secured and maintained over the course of the probate process. For some assets this may be as simple as making sure the account is closed; however, for other assets it could require physically securing a building and arranging for upkeep for several months. Ask yourself if your prospective Executor is capable of managing your estate assets for a lengthy period of time.
- Your Executor approves and pays debts of your estate. All creditors of your estate have a right to be notified of probate and allowed an opportunity to file a claim. The person you appoint as your Executor must follow the statutory guidelines for providing that notification and must make a timely decision regarding the approval or denial of each claim that is filed. Ask yourself if your prospective Executor will be able to thoroughly evaluate claims and only pay those that should be paid.
- Your Executor defends your Will during litigation. A Will contest is always a possibility as is the possibility that a creditor of the estate might challenge a denial of claim. If your estate does become a party to litigation, for any reason, your Executor is responsible for defending the estate and your Will. If he/she hasn’t already done so, your Executor should retain the services of an experienced probate attorney if that occurs. The attorney will then be responsible for drafting documents and representing the estate in court. Ask yourself though if your chosen Executor will be able to handle the pressure of litigation and if he/she will hire the right professionals when necessary.
- Your Executor may have to sell estate assets. The Executor of an estate may need to make controversial, or unwelcome, decisions that could impact the inheritance ultimately passed down to beneficiaries of the estate. For example, if your estate lacks sufficient liquid assets to pay all approved claims, estate assets will need to be sold to pay those claims. Beneficiaries of the estate may not agree with the Executor’s decision regarding which assets to sell. Ask yourself if your chosen Executor can make those difficult decisions and if he/she would make the decisions you would make.
- Your Executor has to be able to do all this while grieving your loss. The person who serves as the Executor of your estate will need to have the ability to set aside, or at least compartmentalize, his/her emotions relating to your death and focus on the steps that must be taken to preserve your estate assets and initiate the probate process. Not everyone has the ability to do this and, quite frankly, it isn’t fair to expect someone who is overwhelmed with grief to try and administer your estate. Finally, ask yourself if the person you want to appoint as your Executor will be able to handle the job while also dealing with the emotional aftermath of your loss.
Contact Our Inglewood Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information on how we can help, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about appointing the right Executor for your estate, contact our estate planning lawyers by calling (310) 677-9787 or register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops to learn more about our services.