How do I pick an executor?
The executor is the person who manages your estate and carries out the provisions in your will. They see that the financial assets and property actually go to the people you name and that everything proceeds smoothly. They file documents, see the legal process through, follow up with financial institutions, and deal with your mail and accounts. You should also pick a back-up person in case your first choice is unable to do it.
What makes a good executor?
- Good organizational skills, as well as an ability to keep track of details.
- Ability to ask hard questions and talk with family members during an emotional or traumatic time.
Because of those factors, we suggest you name someone other than your spouse This will decrease the strain and additional burden on grieving family members. If you do name your spouse, you should name a trusted friend or family member as a backup, in case your spouse cannot handle the tasks.
What does the executor do?
- Inventory all assets and manage how they are dispersed.
- Pay debts, daily expenses, and ceremonial expenses.
- Notify banks, social security, and insurance companies of your death.
- Follow probate proceedings according to the laws of your state.
- Pay local, state and federal taxes (including income and estate taxes).
- Determine whether to hire a lawyer or an accountant.
- Manage probate proceedings.
- Follow up and collect death benefits from social security and life insurance policies.
- Organize and gather paperwork, including certified copies of the death certificate.
Hiring a professional executor
If no one in your immediate circle is up for the task, don’t panic. You can hire a professional or service to manage your estate for a flat fee or percentage of the estate (usually 3-5%). In fact, some people prefer to have a neutral party, who has done this before, take care of it. Popular options for this include attorneys and bank trust departments.