Creating a Last Will and Testament is one of the most important things you will ever do during your lifetime. There are a number of important decisions you will need to make during the creation of your Will; however, do not make the mistake many people make of assuming that all those important decisions relate to the disposition of your estate assets. While deciding what happens to your estate assets certainly is an important part of creating your Will, deciding who will be the Executor of your estate is of equal importance. People often simply fill in the name of a spouse, family member, or friend as the Executor of their Will without taking the time to consider whether or not that individual is actually the best person for the job. Often, the problem lies in the fact that the average person has no reason to know what an Executor actually does. Learning more about what the Executor of a Will does during the probate of an estate will help you choose the right person as your Executor.
The Probate Process
Before discussing the role of an Executor it is important to discuss the probate process first. Probate s the legal process that follows the death of an individual. When you die, your estate will go through probate, either formal or informal. Probate serves several purposes, including:
- Ensuring that your estate assets are all identified, located, secured, and valued.
- Identifying the beneficiaries and legal heirs of your estate
- Allowing creditors to file claims against the estate
- Making sure taxes are paid
- Transferring estate assets to the new owners
Executor vs. Personal Representative
You may hear two different terms for the person who oversees the administration of an estate – “Executor” and “Personal Representative.” The Executor of a Will and a “Personal Representative” serve essentially the same role within the probate process. The only difference is that an Executor is appointed by a decedent who died “testate,” or with a valid Will in place whereas a Personal Representative is someone who volunteers for the position when the decedent died “intestate,” or without a Will in place.
Duties and Responsibilities of Your Executor
The reason so many people appoint the wrong person as the Executor of their estate is that they have very little idea what the duties and responsibilities of an Executor are. Those duties and responsibilities are such that the right Executor can result in an efficient and cost-effective probate process or the wrong Executor can result in a time consuming and expensive probate process. Although an Executor often retains the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to help throughout the probate of the estate, the Executor is ultimately responsible for overseeing the probate of the estate. During the probate of the estate, some of the duties and responsibilities the Executor has include:
- Submitting the decedent’s original Will to the appropriate court along with documents asking the court to open the probate of the estate.
- Identifying, locating, and securing all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death.
- Obtaining a date of death value of all estate assets which often requires the assistance of a professional appraiser
- Notifying all known and unknown creditors that the probate process is underway
- Reviewing and approving or denying all claims submitted by creditors
- Defending the Will submitted to the court if a Will contest is filed
- Calculating and paying all state and federal gift and estate taxes due
- Preparing all documents needed to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets.
Choosing the Executor of a Will
Given the numerous and varied duties and responsibilities the Executor of a Will has, it only makes sense to take the time necessary to choose the right person for the job.
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the Executor of a Will, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.