When most people contemplate the creation of their Last Will and Testament they focus on decisions related to the gifts they will make within that Will. Consequently, appointing someone as the Executor of their estate is not something they spend much time contemplating. That tendency is also one of the most common of all estate planning mistakes. The Bath estate planning attorneys at the Law Office of Michael Robinson, P.C. offer five reason why appointing the right Executor in your Will is important.
Who Should Be My Executor?
One of the most common mistakes people make when creating their estate plan is to appoint someone as their Executor in their Will without giving the matter much thought. Instead, they simply appoint a spouse, adult child, or family member and move on to the next decision. One reason people do this is that they don’t really understand what an Executor does. Consequently, they fail to understand how important it is to appoint the right person for the job. To help prevent you from making the same mistake, consider the following reasons why your choice of Executor is so important.
- Your Executor is responsible for your estate assets until they are transferred to the intended beneficiaries. Shortly after your death, all of your estate assets must be identified and secured. This may include things such as real property, household goods and furnishings, financial and investment accounts, and anything else you owned at the time of your death. Your Executor is responsible for making sure all of those assets are not just identified, but also secured and maintained over the course of the probate process. For some assets this may be as simple as making sure the account is closed; however, for other assets it could require physically securing a building and arranging for upkeep for several months.
- Your Executor is responsible for defending your Will if someone challenges your Will. Hopefully, no one will challenge the validity of your Last Will and Testament; however, a Will contest is always a possibility as is the possibility that a creditor of the estate might challenge a denial of claim. If your estate does become a party to litigation, for any reason, your Executor is responsible for defending the estate and your Will. Hopefully, your Executor will retain the services of an experienced probate attorney if that occurs, in which case the attorney will handle drafting documents and representing the estate in court. Nevertheless, your Executor is ultimately responsible for defending the estate and hiring professionals (including an attorney) to help in that endeavor.
- Your Executor will need to handle claims made against your estate. Potential creditors of your estate have a right to be notified of probate and given and opportunity to file claims against the estate. The person you appoint as your Executor must follow the statutory guidelines for providing that notification and must make a timely decision regarding the approval or denial of each claim that is filed. You want someone who won’t make a mistake with regard to the notification process and who is capable of evaluating the claims that are filed to ensure that only valid claims are paid.
- Your Executor may need to make difficult decisions regarding your estate assets. The Executor of an estate may need to make controversial, or unwelcome, decisions that could impact the inheritance ultimately passed down to beneficiaries of the estate. For example, if your estate lacks sufficient liquid assets to pay all approved claims, estate assets will need to be sold to pay those claims. Beneficiaries of the estate may not agree with the Executor’s decision regarding which assets to sell. Your Executor needs to have the skills and/or experienced necessary to make those difficult decisions as well as know you well enough to have a good idea what you would want him/her to do.
- Your Executor must be able to set aside his/her emotional response and do what needs to be done. Possibly the best reason to select your Executor carefully is the simple fact that the person who serves as the Executor of your estate will need to have the ability to set aside, or at least compartmentalize, his/her emotions relating to your death and focus on the steps that must be taken to preserve your estate assets and initiate the probate process. Not everyone has the ability to do this and, quite frankly, it isn’t fair to expect someone who is overwhelmed with grief to try and administer your estate. Ultimately, it is best for both your estate and your Executor to choose the person carefully.
Contact Bath Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about appointing the right Executor of your estate, contact the Bath estate planning attorneys at the Law Office of Michael Robinson, P.C. by calling 585-374-5210 to schedule an appointment.