Estate Planning Questions: What is an Executor?

Executor

Executor: Naming Someone to Manage Your Estate Plan

 

When you hear the term “executor”, you may think of an large estate with mansions, sports cars and investment accounts. But in reality, an estate is simply all of your property and property rights. When you die, your property and your rights in property do not likewise die. They survive. That property and rights have to go somewhere. How that property is managed and distributed depends on whether or not you die with a valid will. Know who to name as your executor.

Not having a will doesn’t mean that your loved ones will avoid a court proceeding. The State has a plan known as “Probate”. Probate refers to the process a court uses to establish the validity of a will. The probate process also allows the court. Probate can be a long, complex process.

A will, however, greatly greases the wheels, ensures that your wishes are carried out if at all possible, and generally makes life a lot more pleasant for those charged with the responsibility for your estate after you leave this world. The person who manages your estate and distributes your things when you pass is known as an “executor”.

The executor’s role is critical to the administration of an estate and the achievement of estate planning objectives. So your first instinct may be to name a trusted family member as executor (also referred to as a personal representative). But that might not be the best choice.

Important duties

Your executor has a variety of important duties, including:

  • Arranging for probate of your will (if necessary) and obtaining court approval to administer your estate,
  • Taking inventory of — and collecting, recovering or maintaining — your assets, including life insurance proceeds and retirement plan benefits,
  • Obtaining valuations of your assets,
  • Preparing a schedule of assets and liabilities,
  • Arranging for the safekeeping of personal property,
  • Contacting your beneficiaries to advise them of their entitlements under your will,
  • Paying any debts incurred by you or your estate and handling creditors’ claims,
  • Defending your will in the event of litigation,
  • Filing tax returns on behalf of your estate, and
  • Distributing your assets among your beneficiaries according to the terms of your will.

Typically, family members lack the skills and time to handle all of these tasks on their own. They’re entitled, of course, to hire accountants, attorneys, financial planners and other advisors — at the estate’s expense — for assistance. But even with professional help, serving as executor is a big job that requires a substantial time commitment during an already stressful period. Plus, if your executor is also a beneficiary of your will, other beneficiaries may view that as a conflict of interest.

A few alternatives

So, what are your options? One is to name a trusted advisor, such as an accountant or lawyer, as executor. Another is to appoint an advisor and a family member as co-executors. The advisor would handle most of the executor’s day-to-day responsibilities, while your family member would oversee the process and ensure that the advisor acts in your family’s best interests.

We can help you decide who would best serve as your estate’s executor. Please contact us with questions.

Estate Planning Attorney, Todd Rasmussen, of Estate Planning Kansas City is responsible for the content of this message. With offices in Overland Park, Leawood and Kansas City, Estate Planning Kansas City helps clients with their estate planning needs. This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to render legal advice. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be made solely on the basis of this article.