Whether you are considering who to name as the executor – sometimes referred to as “personal representative” – of your Will or you have been asked to be an executor, you should put careful thought into your decision, as executors assume fiduciary duties and must carry out very important responsibilities.
Before you select an executor – or before accepting appointment as an executor – it’s important you know what these responsibilities entail. Here’s an overview of the responsibilities and traits that make up a successful executor of a Will.
What is an executor and who can become one?
An executor is someone appointed by the court, often nominated in the Will, who is given the legal responsibility to take care of a deceased person’s remaining financial and personal affairs. This can include everything from selling property, paying bills and taxes, distributing inheritances as directed in the Will, funeral arrangements and more. However, it does not include dealing with assets that were jointly owned, designated for distribution to specific beneficiaries upon death, or placed in trust.
In most states, the rules for who may be named the executor of a Will are straightforward. If appointing an individual, the person must be at least 18 years old and of “sound mind,” which means the person has not been ruled to be incapacitated by a court. It’s common to choose a family member, an attorney or a bank authorized to serve in this capacity, such as Bankers Trust’s Private Client Services team.
The benefits of selecting an attorney or professional advisor over a family member include:
- They have the expertise needed to accurately understand the wishes detailed in the Will in complete the complex responsibilities of an executor
- As an unbiased party, they can reduce tension among family conflicts revolving around the wishes detailed in the Will
- They have access to supplemental resources to navigate and resolve complex issues that may arise
- Individuals often underestimate the time commitment involved in administering a decedent’s estate
Traits to look for in an executor
If you’re deciding who to name as the executor of your Will, be sure to choose someone you trust to execute on your wishes. If you’re considering a friend or family member instead of a professional, such as an attorney or bank, you will especially need to consider their character, experience, ability and willingness to step in and make decisions right away. You should also consider the person’s age, health and if they are likely to outlive you. Remember, the designated executor must still be approved by the court, and they can choose to accept or decline appointment. For that reason, it is generally advisable to select an alternate executor.
Things to consider before serving as an executor of a Will
If you have been asked to be the executor of someone’s Will, it’s important you give it careful thought before accepting to make sure you are able and willing to carry out the responsibilities.
Before you accept the position, consider the complexity of the estate, the time commitment and the immediate responsibilities you should expect. Consider if you have the expertise, time and sensitivity needed to navigate the wishes expressed in the Will and the family dynamics.
Ultimately, when choosing an executor or accepting the role of an executor, it’s important to understand that this person or entity must be able to quickly step in and make decisions. The stakes can be high, so you want an executor who can quickly and confidently navigate through any situation.
Bankers Trust Company and its affiliates and their representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax and legal advisors regarding your unique situation and needs.