Thinking about death and dying is a daunting task for most of us. The moment “the end” crosses our mind countless thoughts pour in. Who will be there to hold my hand as I go? Will I be comfortable, and will I have any regrets? In many cases, we think of our family first. We think of what we have accomplished, what we have to give them and how to make sure that our estate is divided so that everyone gets what they need and want without disagreements.
It is interesting how little we know about estate planning until we reach the age when thoughts of “the end” become more frequent.
So where do you start?
One of the most important parts of effective estate planning is the naming of an executor. An executor is someone who will administer the estate and take full responsibility for it until all legal issues are settled. And while we tend to want to choose someone who is close to our heart, we must detach ourselves from such emotions and truly consider their qualifications. An executor must be responsible, trustworthy, organized, capable, and willing to take on a task that will require time and commitment.
The Job That Awaits Your Executor
Your executor will make sure that all your dying wishes are fulfilled. This isn’t a walk in the park. He or she must first make sure that your will is declared legally valid in probate court, pay estate taxes, creditors, and finally allocate the remaining assets to your named beneficiaries.
If the estate undergoes any audits, the executor must oversee this process. A small error, and sometimes even a typo, can result in loss of assets and lead to complications. This is why legal help is always recommended. Having an estate lawyer draft your will is one of the most important parts of the entire process. Phoenix estate planning attorney, Andrew P. Gorman, of Gorman & Jones, PLC, says there are two factors that can help you avoid probate litigation: detailed estate planning and estate substitutes.
In addition, your executor should be aware of the latest developments in estate planning. For example, in 2011, President Barack Obama signed a new tax rule into law, giving widows and widowers a tax break. For deaths in 2011 and 2012, the surviving spouse can carry over any part of the $5 million-per-person federal estate tax exclusion not used by the deceased spouse. You can learn more about tax laws here.
So you must ask yourself, is your chosen executor capable or retrieving the latest information, or at least consulting with the right person who might be able to offer some guidance?
If you have doubts, why not consider individuals outside of the family? Trusted friends, financial advisors and estate planning attorneys should also make your list.
Choosing multiple executors is also not recommended as this may lead to disagreements among the executors, thus slowing or completely halting the process. Selecting a primary executor and possible alternates may be the better route.
And, finally, don’t forget the fees that an executor might charge you for his or her time. The most important part is to select an executor who is up for the task and you can trust him or her to carry out your final wishes without charging a fortune for it, or worse yet, all that you have left behind.