Too many people neglect to take care of proper estate planning while they are still of sound mind. Others may not realize that designating an executor for their estate is one of the most important tools for assuring that their final wishes will be carried out. There is a lot more to getting your final papers in order than merely drawing up a will. Preparing funeral arrangements and tying up loose ends, like tax payments, ahead of time are also important. This type of planning can substantially decrease the stress for surviving family members.
What are an Executor’s Responsibilities?
An executor is an individual that is chosen to bear fiduciary responsibility for designated power or property. This is done for another person’s benefit. For the purpose of a will, the executor carries out the instructions that are in the will after the other person’s death. The range of duties can vary, depending upon the size and complexity of the estate, which can include:
- Planning the funeral and ensuring that its payment is received
- Locating and securing assets
- Distributing assets to survivors and other named individuals or organizations
- Complying with tax payments
- Contacting the deceased’s creditors, banks, and insurers
- Paying outstanding debts
- In many cases, the executor is also named as the trustee. A trustee holds onto the deceased’s assets until they are distributed.
The executor may also have to act as a mediator if surviving family members or business partners disagree on the will’s terms. It can also take many years for all the estate’s distributions to be complete.
The Right Executor
Any adult aged 18 years and older can be named as an executor of a will. It is also permissible, and quite common, for will beneficiaries to also be named as executors. The most important thing is to choose a person that can be completely trusted to carry out the wishes. Choosing someone with financial knowledge, legal expertise, and organizational skills is recommended.
Other beneficial qualities are maturity, responsibility, and integrity. A person that either knows the family or understands and respects the deceased’s values could be a good choice. The most commonly chosen executors are spouses, partners, children, parents, and siblings. Trusted friends, wills and estates law firms, and accountants are also common executors. Some wills are designed to have more than one executor. It is also a good idea to designate an alternate in case the first one is unable to fulfill the duties.
There are pros and cons to choosing a family member rather than a professional. Family members are more likely to know the deceased intimately. Emotions can come into play however, and someone that is grieving may not be able to handle the responsibility. An experienced professional can be more objective and better with sorting out the details, especially for more complex estates.
Delaware County Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients Choose Executors
Contact the Delaware County wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. for all your estate planning needs. We put your family first, and work to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Call 610-565-3701 or complete an online form for a free consultation. We have offices in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.