Selecting an executor is an important part of planning your estate. If your plan includes a will, it is important to understand the executor's responsibilities and make sure the individual you select will be able to handle them well.
You can put a lot of thought and care into your will's provisions and still end up with problems if the probate process is not handled properly. In addition to choosing a competent and willing executor, involving an experienced estate attorney can help things go smoothly.
What an executor does
The major responsibilities of an executor in New York include inventorying and collecting the estate's assets and liabilities. This may involve getting professional valuations or negotiating with creditors. The executor must settle valid debts, pay any taxes due and distribute the remainder in accordance with the will's provisions. Throughout the process, the executor should keep records of each transaction and prepare an account for the probate court.
In addition, the executor may need to deal with various types of disputes and even litigation. Family members may contest certain provisions; third parties may sue the estate for various reasons.
How onerous the above tasks may become can depend greatly on the size of the estate and the complexity of the finances involved.
Who can serve as executor
In New York, an executor must be a legal adult and a citizen of the United States. He or she must not have any felony convictions. In addition to these technical requirements, you should consider whether the prospective executor's experience and personality suit them for handling potentially complex financial and interpersonal issues.
Just because a person may have the right skills may not mean he or she is up to the task. Factors such as health, location or difficult relationships with the beneficiaries can hinder the executor's fulfillment of all responsibilities.
Finally, you should also consider specifying a back-up executor in case your first choice turns out to be unable to shoulder this task at the time it becomes necessary.