You should consider the executor’s role carefully before accepting or refusing. These decisions are usually based on relationships and willingness to help the family after a loved one dies. According to the helpful article “Planning Ahead: Should you agree to serve as an executor?” from Daily Local News, knowing specific processes are in place and many are standard procedures may make the decision easier.
A family member or friend is often asked to serve as executor when the surviving spouse is the only or primary beneficiary and unable to manage the necessary tasks. In other instances, estates are complex, involving multiple beneficiaries, charities, and real estate in several states. The size of the estate is less of a factor when it comes to complexity. Small estates with debt can be more challenging than well-planned large estates, where planning has been done and abundant resources to address any problems.
Prepare while the person is alive. This is the time to learn as much as you can. Ask to get a copy of the will and read it. Who are the beneficiaries? Speak with the person about the relationships between beneficiaries and other family members. Do they get along, and if not, why? Be prepared for conflict.
Find out what the person wants for their funeral. Do they want a traditional memorial service, and have they paid for the funeral already? Any information they can provide will make this difficult time a little easier.
What are your responsibilities as executor? Depending on how the will is prepared, you may be responsible for everything, or your responsibilities may be limited. At the very least, the executor is responsible for:
- Locating and preparing an inventory of assets
- Getting a tax ID number and establishing an estate account
- Paying final bills, including funeral and related bills
- Notifying beneficiaries
- Preparing tax returns, including estate and inheritance tax returns
- Distributing assets and submitting a final accounting
If the person has an estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and CPA, meeting with them while the person is alive and learning what you can about the plans for assets will be helpful. These three professional advisors will be able to provide help as you move forward with the estate.
These tasks may sound daunting, but being asked to serve as a person’s executor demonstrates their complete trust in your abilities and judgment. Yes, you will sigh with relief when you complete the task. However, you’ll also be satisfied knowing you did an excellent service to someone who matters to you.
Reference: Daily Local News (June 19, 2022) “Planning Ahead: Should you agree to serve as an executor?”