If you find yourself asked to be an executor of a family member or friend’s estate for when they pass, there are a few things to consider before you say yes. While you might think of it as an honor, it is truly more like a part-time job. There are periods where action is necessary, and correspondence feels urgent, and other times when waiting is inevitable. The roller coaster of probate may cause even the most well-organized executor unwelcomed stress.
The Role of an Executor in Estate Planning
An executor administers a person’s estate upon their death. They carry out the instructions of the will of the testator (the individual who makes the will) and manage their affairs after they have passed. Most importantly, the executor, (who may also be known as the administrator or personal representative) is tasked with shepherding the person’s will through the court for the various stages of probate leading to the final distribution to beneficiaries.
While there are specific milestones along the probate journey the process can vary based on the decedent’s stated intentions and many other factors. The probate process involves a series of filings and possible hearings that are presided over by a probate judge. This process may be quick or quite prolonged depending on the state and the procedures necessary to complete probate. For example, some estates require probate in more than one state.
It’s important to know the local laws where the deceased lived at the time of death and where they owned property to know for sure. Contacting an attorney located in the state where your loved one was domiciled is the easiest way fully understand what the probate process may look like.
How to Know If You’ll Make a Good Executor
When considering an executorship, you should know upfront there is a significant time commitment involved. The probate process can take a few months to a year or more depending on the complexity of the case and the state where the probate proceeding is taking place. This alone can burden an impatient executor.
Read How Long Does an Executor’s Job Take? to get an idea of the length of the probate process.
You should also evaluate whether you have the right skill set and temperament for the role. Are you someone who pays attention to detail? This is a key requirement of an executor.
An executor should also be:
- Well organized
- Comfortable with deadlines
- Make thoughtful and business type decisions
- Fair to all beneficiaries
If this does sound like you, know that hiring an experienced probate attorney to help you can make a difference in doing the process right and without unnecessary delays. A sense of meticulousness and timeliness on your part can help ensure the process moves along as smoothly and quickly as possible.
If this does not sound like you, consider that you may do more harm than good. You could cause significant delays in the probate process and even open yourself up to personal liability. Your attorney will need your cooperation and if the responsibilities for the job seem too overwhelming for you, or outside of your skill set, perhaps it will be better to let someone else take on the responsibility. There are several different fiduciary roles in estate planning and perhaps another role may be a better fit.
For more information on how we can help you alleviate some stress from being an executor, please contact our office.