If you use a last will to record your final wishes regarding the inheritances that your loved ones will be receiving, you nominate someone to handle the estate administration tasks after you die. This person is called the executor of a will.
The estate executor has a number of different real world responsibilities. It is not just a ceremonial honor that you bestow upon someone that you love and respect.
You may imagine the executor reading a will after the funeral, and the idea would be that the executor can start distributing assets right away. In fact, this is not the case. The first order of business for the executor will be to admit the will to probate. We practice law in the state of New Jersey. In our state, probate matters are handled by the Surrogate’s Court.
There are those who try to contend that probate is a problem, but in reality, it is a necessary process. In New Jersey, the probate process is very streamlined and effective, so there is no reason to be concerned about it.
The executor should ideally have some understanding of the probate process. However, most ordinary laypeople are not going to know much about probate. For this reason, you could take steps to provide a turnkey situation for your loved ones when you are devising your estate plan.
When you work with an estate planning attorney to draw up your last will, you could arrange for that attorney to act as the probate lawyer after you are gone. After your passing, the executor would be able to contact your attorney, and there would be legal guidance every step of the way.
All of the assets that comprise the estate must be rounded up by the executor, and final debts must be paid during probate, so the executor must notify creditors. The executor will open up a bank account on behalf of the estate so that bills can be paid.
The executor will ultimately prepare the property for distribution to the heirs in accordance with the wishes of the decedent. Depending on the circumstances, appraisals and liquidation of property may be necessary.
In addition to all of these tasks, the executor is going to be the point of contact for anyone who has an interest in the estate. Because of this, the ideal executor will be a good communicator who can patiently interact with family members and others.
Choosing the Right Executor
When you digest all of the above, you can see that the executor should be a business minded individual who has experience handling somewhat complicated financial situations.
Longevity also enters the equation. Will the person that you nominate be around to administer the estate after your passing?
Thirdly, this can be a demanding position, so you should make sure that the person that you are going to nominate is willing to take on the responsibility.
Geography is another factor. You probably do not want to nominate an executor who lives hundreds of miles away from you.
If you do not know anyone who has all of the above qualities, you could potentially use a professional entity such as a trust company. When you have a professional handling the estate administration tasks after your passing, you can be sure that everything will be done effectively.
Plus, there would be no appearances of favoritism or conflicts of interests, and this is something that can enter the picture if a family member or a family friend is acting as the executor of a will. Clearly, there are costs involved if you engage a professional fiduciary, but depending on the circumstances, the benefits can outweigh the costs.
Schedule a Consultation
If you would like to establish an estate plan, we urge you to explore all of your options before you decide on a last will as your asset transfer vehicle. This is especially true if you have considered creating your own will using worksheets and downloads that you can purchase online.
A will can be the right choice under very straight forward circumstances, but even if a will is suitable, you should work with a licensed estate planning attorney to make sure that everything is done properly.
Plus, when you understand all the facts, you may find that, in your circumstances, a trust of some kind is a better choice.
We can help if you would like to discuss everything with a professional. Give us a call at (908) 222-8803 or send us a message through our contact page and we can set up a no obligation consultation.