Beyond deciding which beneficiaries should receive your property after you pass on, one of the key decisions you will need to make while creating your will is the person who will act as the executor of your will. The executor is the person who will be tasked with the all-important tasks of ensuring that the wishes expressed in your will are actually carried by delivering the property to your intended beneficiaries, and will also need to pay off any outstanding debts to creditors.
Because this can be a complicated legal process and involves the handling of all of your financial affairs, it is important to find an executor who is up to the task.
An Executor May or May Not Be a Family Member
While being the executor of a will is a primarily legal function, there is no requirement that the executor be an attorney. You may choose a trusted family member or friend to act as your executor, or you may select an attorney or other estate planning or probate professional to handle matters (your executor may choose to work with a probate attorney in carrying out the execution of the will). The executor will be paid for his or her efforts as a percentage of the entire estate, and that number is dictated by state probate law.
Find an Executor With the Ability to Organize and Handle Complex Financial Matters
Your executor will have a number of tasks following your passing, including:
- Understanding what debts you have outstanding
- Making efforts to make creditors aware of your passing and working with them to verify and pay outstanding debts
- Understanding what assets are being referenced in your will
- Locating your assets
- Working with entities such as banks, insurance companies, and other financial entities and businesses to properly inform them of your passing and facilitate the transfer of your assets
- Identifying and locating the beneficiaries mentioned in your will to transfer your assets
- Identifying and locating property not mentioned in your will and determining who should receive such assets
- Working with the probate court overseeing your estate
All of these tasks require diligence, intelligence, and organizational skills. Again, a probate attorney can assist with this process, but it is important that your executor be able to undertake these duties without excessive supervision and without making legal or factual mistakes.
Name an Executor You Trust to Be Honest With Your Property
Although a probate court judge will oversee the disposition of your asset, your executor will have the ability to take custody of and manage your assets in the same way a money manager or other fiduciary might. The executor will be bound to follow the dictates of your will, but mismanagement of a will is not always uncovered by a court, and, even when it does, can cause immense delay and expense for your beneficiaries who may need to hire their own attorneys as a result.
You may also decide to give some discretion to your executor in determining who should receive property not bequeathed to a specific person in your will, thus it is critical to find an executor with whom you can place trust to manage your financial affairs.
Create a Will or Trust With a Pasadena Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher B. Johnson, located in Pasadena, California, has years of experience in all aspects of estate planning, and works with clients from all walks of life to create estate planning tools that reflect their needs and those of their beneficiaries. To request an immediate consultation, contact him today at (877) 755-9178.