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Help! I've been named an executor

When friends or loved ones are creating their estate plan, it generally involves having a will drafted. Another part of this process is choosing the best person to be in charge of executing the will and ensuring that the details of the will are followed, as well as other important processes. That individual is called an executor or in some states, a personal representative. For many would-be executors, he or she has no idea what responsibilities are involved until after the will goes into effect and at that point, can feel very overwhelmed. A recent article provided some helpful tips for executors to aid them in their obligations.

California executors are charged with performing duties that can require informed decision making, diplomatic family efforts and perseverance.

An executor is charged with immense responsibility for the disposition of another person's assets. This is not as effortless as reading grandma's will and distributing antique china to Cousin Betty. Executors carry out terms of a will, which may involve impatient heirs, estate disputes and probate court.

An executor may refuse the position of estate administrator. Contingent or court-appointed executors can step in to take over the duties. The position does not have to be as chaotic as it appears, especially with the advice of expert financial and legal counselors.

Since executors are often close relatives of the decedent, the most complex part of the task may be coping with strong emotions while carrying out administrative affairs. The executor's first responsibility usually involves the arrangement of the deceased's funeral and burial.

A funeral director will ask how many copies of a death certificate are needed. Executors often have not had time to think about this. Most advisors suggest requesting double the number of certificates that might be needed for financial accounts, tax agencies, creditors, insurers and benefits' providers.

Finding the will or trust is the next step, usually with the help of the attorney who created the documents. If a living trust exists, probate could be avoided. If not, a court will require a copy of the will within several days up to a month after a decedent's death.

Not every part of an estate must be entered into probate. Trust asset distribution does not have to wait until the probate process is complete, a process that can take several months or even years.

Most executors need professional help. Estate attorneys and financial consultants aid executors by answering questions, filing timely tax and court documents, averting errors and streamlining the entire process.

Another important tip provided is that executors may not disburse any assets until the probate process ends and creditors, including tax debts, are paid. The delay may be longer than beneficiaries, or even the executor, wants to wait. That can make having a competent legal advisor all the more valuable.

Source: foxbusiness.com, "Seven Tips if You Are the Executor of an Estate," Judy Martel, June 13, 2012

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