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How to choose an executor for your estate

Choosing an executor for your estate is an essential matter and one you may find daunting. Most people put family members at the top of the list, and this is logical considering that those closest to you know the most about your intentions and the assets that need to be inventoried. The job of the executor is time-consuming, however, and depending on the size of your estate, the work involved may take two years or longer before distribution to heirs and assignees can take place.

Making an executive decision

You might want to draw up a list of family members and friends, then pare that down to those you feel are the most trustworthy. Some people consider naming all their children as co-executors so as to avoid the possibility of hurt feelings. However, this may lead to infighting or end up with one person doing all the work. A better option might be to have an attorney or accountant serve as executor, or turn the job over to a fiduciary such as a bank. Professionals are quite familiar with the many responsibilities that pertain to the proper management and distribution of an estate.

Probate is the beginning

Step one in administering an estate is the process of probating - having the court validate - the will of the deceased. It is the responsibility of the executor to notify creditors and other interested parties of the death and inform them of their right to make claims against the estate. This should be done carefully; any errors in notifications could result in lawsuits from beneficiaries or creditors.

The collection of assets

The executor must inventory the assets of the deceased, which may include bank and brokerage accounts, property and various items of value. The task can be time-consuming since personal effects need to be examined and family members need to be contacted for information about assets. Once completed, the inventory must be presented to the probate court for review.

Debts and taxes

The executor uses estate funds to pay bills and collects money owed to the deceased. The latter is important because it represents funds that should be passed along to beneficiaries according to the will. Next, the estate taxes should be calculated by an attorney or accountant. An income tax return should then be filed for the final year of the decedent's life and taxes paid or refunded accordingly.

Winding up

Closing the estate is a process whereby the executor goes back to the probate court to prove that all creditors were properly notified and that bills and taxes were paid. An accountant must also show proof of any income earned. The final step is to distribute the assets of the deceased according to the provisions of the will.

Going for dependability

At the end of the day, the individual you select as your executor should be intelligent, practical and dependable. If this individual has experience with the duties involved, so much the better. If you have questions or concerns, seek guidance from an attorney familiar with estate matters.

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