Many people familiar with Texas estate planning have heard of the “executor” of an estate. It is colloquially understood that an executor is a person assigned by a trustee to manage their final wishes and financial matters after the death of the trustee. Being chosen as the executor of an estate should be seen as an honor, as the selection demonstrates that the trustee has faith and confidence in the abilities and integrity of the chosen executor. Although the privilege of being selected as an executor is certainly a compliment, the responsibilities of executorship are often far more significant than a chosen executor may expect. A recently published article in a financial services trade journal discusses an executor’s duties.
The primary role of the executor is to ensure that the final wishes of the trustee are carried out in the best way possible. This includes both financial and other wishes, such as funeral arrangements, obituary, and the division of sentimental items. When a trustee has prepared a will, the executor is required to use that document as a guide to distributing the estate of the trustee. An executor’s duties may be extremely simple when the estate has little value or few beneficiaries.
High-value estates with more beneficiaries or complex financial assets (trusts, real estate holdings, stocks and options, businesses, annuities, etc.) may be more complicated for the executor. If the estate beneficiaries do not get along with one another or the executor and challenge the division in court, the work of the executor can include retaining counsel on behalf of the estate and working diligently to effect the trustee’s wishes to the best of their good-faith understanding of the will.
The executor’s work should begin well before the trustee passes away. Meeting with the trustee and beneficiaries to clarify the intent of the trustee can prevent many headaches after the trustee’s death. The executor can also work to ensure that all of the necessary documents and other items are properly prepared and accessible upon the death of the trustee.
The work of an executor is not expected to be done for free. Whether addressed in the will or not, the executor of an estate is entitled to reasonable compensation for the work they put in. This may be done on an hourly basis, as a lump sum payment, or as a portion of estate assets. The executor is compensated for their work after all of the trustee’s debts and obligations are filled, but before the beneficiaries receive any payments of property transfers.
Because of this, it is in the beneficiaries’ best interest for the executor’s job to be as simple as possible.
Do You Have Questions about a Will, Estate Planning or an Executor’s Duties?
If you are in the process of estate planning for yourself or a loved one, doing a little work now can prevent an enormous headache down the road. The Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch Miller, PLLC can help you select a reliable executor for your estate. With our help, you can ensure that everything is clearly laid out in legally binding documentation to ensure that your final wishes will be honored. If you have questions about estate planning, or have lost a family member and are in a dispute with other beneficiaries, trustees, or an executor, we can help. Call a member of our team today at (713) 903-7879.