As we have discussed in earlier blogs, a will is a document that dictates “who gets your stuff” when you go to the great beyond. In the will, we dictate the terms of how and to whom we would like to distribute our estate, the amounts, and all the fine details of passing along that which we spent a lifetime accumulating. We talked about the Durable Power of Attorney. Now let’s talk about the thankless job of an Executor.
Your Executor is the person or persons you determine suitable to see to it that all the terms and decisions of your will get carried out according to your wishes. It is advisable that before you assign the role of Executor to your will during your drafting stage that you speak with him or her to determine if they will accept the job. In a committed relationship, it is usually the spouse or partner, but it is not uncommon to assign the task (if agreed to) to another member of the family or professional. While the Executor may have the power to hire other professionals to do the various jobs associated with the task, it is advisable to select an individual who is somewhat savvy in the ways of the world, as the court system, accounting, and legal documentation is a part of settling one’s estate.
Upon your death, it is the Executors job to find the latest copy of the will, read it, interpret it and file a petition with the court to probate the will. They assemble of your assets, and set in motion the sale of any real property that would be part of the liquidation of the estate: cars, house, boat, etc. A search for all investments, bank accounts, savings accounts, and other investment assets is done to corral all the assets into one place. A bank account is set up in the name of the deceased, and as assets are sold or liquidated, the funds are put into this account which will eventually be split amongst the beneficiaries. Life insurance policy claim forms are filled out and submitted, and the beneficiaries named in the policy will receive the death benefit. The death benefit is tax free to the receiving individuals, but is counted in the gross estate of the deceased for estate tax purposes.
All assets are inventoried, for an eventual and complete accounting of the estate. Any debts left behind by the deceased are paid, along with burial and funeral expenses. A final tax return is done, and all taxes, federal and state, are paid. All professionals are paid, and the Executor, if a prior agreement is reached, may deduct his or her fees. If there are specific bequests in the will, those checks will be sent out prior to the full disposition of the deceased estate. Finally, once all is done, taxes are filed, everything is liquidated and in the trust account, debts are paid and taxes are paid, the beneficiaries will get their inheritance based on the will instructions. Each estate has its own quirks and nuances as each person is different as well as their wishes and needs, and may vary from state to state.
The selection of your Executor is a very personal one and there is no right or wrong as to who to assign this job to. Just remember that the person who you leave behind to do the job is doing it because they care about you- be confident in your decision.