Choosing Your Executor or Trustee

How to Choose an Executor for Your Estate

One of the most important steps you can take when protecting your assets for future generations of your family is to create an estate plan with a living trust and pour-over will. However, planning does not end there. Your next big decision, which can be the difference between a quick and efficient estate settlement process or a long and arduous one, will be choosing a person to serve as the executor.

Both a will and trust require a person to be named the executor of the estate and oversee the process while acting as a liaison between the attorneys and the family. An executor generally takes responsibility for managing the decedent’s estate by collecting and distributing assets to beneficiaries waiting to receive their inheritance. Picking the wrong person as executor can lead to various issues like estate delays, tax problems, or even estate contests.

What Are the Top Reasons Why Having an Executor is Important

To truly understand how important an executor is to your estate, beneficiaries must first understand how the process of managing it takes place when a person passes away.

The first thing an executor must do is file the correct paperwork with the courts to open up the estate and begin the process of trust administration or probate. The executor is then responsible for:

  • Completing an inventory of all the decedent’s assets
  • Paying the decedent’s bills, including taxes, property payments, and other outstanding debts (using money from the estate of course).
  • Managing income tax returns
  • Notifying banks, government agencies, and family members of the death
  • Handling court appearances
  • Distributing the estate’s assets to the various beneficiaries

Who Should I Choose to be My Executor?

Many of our clients typically choose a family member or close friend to be their executor (which is a reasonable and solid choice). However, becoming an executor is a huge responsibility and undertaking that will require hours of the person’s time, and picking the correct person should come down to finding someone who is competent and reliable.

Whoever you decide on, the first step is to let them know and receive their approval before drafting any documents. The second step is to review those documents and let your executor know where they will be kept in the case the decedent experiences an accident or untimely passing. Another thing to keep in mind is the person you choose should be honest, organized, reliable, a good communicator and if you own a business, they should be business-savvy as they may end up running the business before it is passed on to the estate’s beneficiaries.

Taking on the responsibilities of an executor is not a legal mandate, so the person who was named on the documents can decline to take up the mantle after the decedent’s passing. Because of this, selecting an alternative is a smart idea. If for some reason you cannot find the correct person to act as an executor, choosing a third party such as a bank, trust company, or an estate professional can also be an option (they will charge an estate fee, however).

When you are ready to create an estate plan, update an existing one, or begin the process of protecting your assets, Elder Law Services of California is here to help. Our team of expert attorneys specializes in trust, wills, and probate & trust administration and we can help you through the process with ease. Contact us at (800) 403-6078 for a FREE phone consultation today! We look forward to working with you!

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Related Questions
  • What makes a good executor?
  • How do you choose an executor?
  • Is it better to have one or two executors?
  • Does the executor have the final say?
  • Can an executor cheat beneficiaries?
  • How do you know if you’re in someone’s will?
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