You might feel honored at first when Aunt Betty tells you that she would like to name you as executor of her will. After all, you are responsible and trustworthy. Before saying yes, be sure that you know what is involved with serving as executor of someone’s will. It is not an impossible job, but it could become a lengthy, involved process that does carry the possibility of personal liability.
The probate code imposes many duties upon an executor. You are responsible for wrapping up the estate of the person who died, which sounds straightforward but can easily become complicated. The primary duty of an executor is called the “fiduciary duty,” which requires you to act with honesty and good faith, and in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the estate. If you mess up, the beneficiaries could sue you and you could be held personally liable for your mistakes. It would be up to you to prove to the beneficiaries that you acted in their best interest.
It is not uncommon for an estate to require a year or more to settle, during which time you have to stay on top of deadlines, filings, and notices. What will you be doing for a year or more? You will be:
- Finding and managing the assets of the decedent before you distribute them;
- Decide what type of probate proceeding is required, if any;
- File the will and follow a timeline of requirements for filings with the court and notices to others such as descendants or legatees;
- Set up a bank account for the estate and pay expenses;
- Pay debts;
- Pay taxes;
- Distribute assets.
Finally, there are often strong emotions involved with surviving family members and loved ones, so an executor should be prepared to deal with family conflict.
Know what you are getting into before agreeing to serve as an executor of someone’s will. If you have been named as an executor and would like help, contact AlerStallings at 1.877.912.3464.