The role of an executor varies with the size and complexity of the estate. The executor is charged with making sure that all final arrangements are made, according to the decedent’s wishes. The executor is also involved with making sure that the distribution of property as directed in the will takes place, taxes are paid and more. It’s a big job. Before agreeing to take on this role, you’ll need to know what it entails, and be confident that you can do it. An article from Investopedia, “5 Things to Consider Before Becoming an Estate Executor” explains the details.
- Complexity of the Estate. Typically, the larger the estate—which can be in terms of property, possessions, assets or the number of beneficiaries—the harder and more time consuming it will be. The best way to see how difficult the job will be, is to request to see a copy of the current will. If there are obvious red flags, like unequal distributions to children or trusts or annuities, it may be best to say no.
- Time Commitment. This job takes time and energy and requires a lot of attention to detail. Truth be told, almost all has to do with the details. Before you agree to execute a will, you should be sure that you have the time to do the job. It’s also important to review your decision to serve as an executor every time your situation changes, like when you get married, have children or change locations. It’s not unusual for a testator to change executors throughout a lifetime.
- Immediate Responsibilities. You may agree to be an executor, thinking that it’ll be years before you have to do any work. However, that’s not always the case. You should be sure the testator is keeping a list of assets and debts and knows where the original will and the asset list are being held and how to access them. You should also have a list of the contact info for attorneys or agents named by the testator. You can also discuss the testator's wishes for a funeral or memorial service, including instructions for burial or cremation.
- Duties After the Testator Dies. This is when the executor must make funeral arrangements, locate the will, initiate probate, manage assets, pay all debts, submit tax returns and more. This can be a snap, if you’re organized and detail oriented.
- How You’ll Be Paid. Each state has laws on how an executor is paid. An executor is also entitled to be compensated for expenses incurred, as they carry out their responsibilities. Executors can also refuse compensation, which is common if you’re doing this for a member of your family.
You’ll need to be diplomatic to work with the family and professionals, have a fair amount of financial know-how and be prepared to put in the work to be a good executor. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you did a good thing for someone you loved.
Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “5 Things to Consider Before Becoming an Estate Executor”