Your estate plan should be as unique as you are. While each estate plan incorporates the specific concerns of the person creating the plan almost all estate plans begin with the creation of a Last Will and Testament. Your Will is the foundation of your plan. As such, you will need to make many important decisions when creating your Will. One decision that people frequently fail to spend as much time thinking about as they should is the appointment of an executor. By understanding the numerous and varied responsibilities and duties of executor you may gain a better understanding of why you should take plenty of time deciding who your executor will be.
Your executor is the person who will oversee the probate of your estate when you die. Depending on the amount of planning you did before hand in the form of an estate plan, overseeing the probate of your estate can be a relatively simple job or an extremely complex and complicated job. A basic understanding of what happens during the probate process will help you understand what the job of executor entails.
When you die, your loved ones will search for an original copy of your Last Will and Testament which will tell them who you appointed as executor if they do not already know. At that point, your executor will take over and began the probate process by filing all the necessary documents in the appropriate court. In most cases an executor will retain the services of an estate planning attorney to assist during the probate process because of the complexity of the legal issues which are involved.
Next, your executor must locate, inventory, and ascertain a value for all of your estate assets. This can be a very cumbersome job if you left behind a considerable number of assets. If, on the other hand, you created an estate plan prior to your death that allowed you to transfer the majority of your assets out of your estate before your death, the asset gathering task is much easier for your executor.
Your executor will also be required to review all claims made against your estate. If a claim is approved it must be paid out of your estate assets. If a claim is denied by your executor and the claimant appeals the denial to the court your executor must handle the litigation as a claim. Your executor must also defend your estate in the event a challenge to your Will is filed with the court. At the end of the probate process your executor will be required to prepare all documents necessary to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries.
The job of executor is often a time-consuming and complicated job. Remember that your executor is responsible for your assets after you die. Given the complexity and importance of the job of executor you should take all the time necessary to ensure that the person you appoint as executor is the best person for the job.
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