Planning for disposition of your property after you are gone is a privilege and a responsibility. Often your family's financial security and future happiness may be dependent upon how efficiently your assets are transferred. Efficiently disposing of your property by means of a will requires the selection of a competent and trustworthy executor. Too many people delegate and accept this responsibility based on friendship or family.
When deciding whom to choose as the executor of an estate, it is important to understand the duties of this position to find a qualified person for the task. Here is a partial list of these duties:
- Get the will probated. This usually involves having an attorney petition the court to "prove" the will. Once this is completed, the executor is empowered to administer the estate.
- Collect or "marshal" the assets, so they can be distributed according to the terms of the will.
- Make sure the assets are valued. A valuation is needed for estate tax purposes as the tax is levied upon fair market value at the date of death of the decedent or the alternate valuation date six months later. This is also done for the benefit of the heirs as they take the assets at this value as their basis for later sale purposes.
- Cancel credit card and other accounts, and inform various persons of the death.
- Make an accounting of and manage the estate's assets, which will often require professional help.
- Pay the estate's debts.
- Distribute the estate's assets.
- File the necessary tax returns and pay the respective state and federal taxes.
These tasks demand financial responsibility, investment expertise, business aptitude, knowledge of accounting, as well as integrity and resourcefulness. An inexperienced executor not equal to the task could make some costly mistakes and destroy an estate plan. Executors are also held accountable as fiduciaries, a provision that will hopefully never need to be addressed.
The selection of a trusted family member or friend may prove sufficient in smaller, less complicated estates. Yet, with larger, more elaborate estates with existing estate plans, the presence of a professional can prove invaluable. A professional executor can provide experience and expertise to efficiently complete the estate settlement process. Of course, the consultation of an attorney or other professional is recommended to help decide which option is best for a particular situation.