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Do you have what it takes to be an executor?

Someone close to you is working on his or her estate plan and has asked you to be the executor. You're honored and a little frightened. What does it involve? Do you want to take on the responsibility? Do you have the time, temperament and skills necessary?

People often choose the closest family member or friend they have as their executor without considering what the job entails and whether that person is the best person to do it. That's why before you say yes, it's essential to understand what being an executor requires, and to do some honest self-evaluation.

Organization is a key attribute of a good executor. You'll be dealing with legal, financial, property and family issues. It's essential to keep track of all of your communications. Depending on how thorough the person was in his or her estate planning, you may be searching for assets or finding debts and other unexpected matters that you have to deal with.

An ability to deal calmly with highly-emotional matters and personalities is also key. Some people choose not to discuss their estate with potential heirs and beneficiaries, leaving the executor to be the bearer of bad news to those who didn't receive what they expected (or anything at all). Even if those conflicts don't erupt, you'll have a very big job at a time when emotions will be running high. You'll need to focus on what the deceased wanted.

Do you have the time to deal with this? Being an executor can be extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive. If you have a full-time job, you may not have the time to do the job properly. Further, if you don't live nearby, you'll have to commute some distance to handle legal matters, get the assets, such as the house, ready for sale and ensure that the decedent's belongings go where they're supposed to. It's not unreasonable to ask for some sort of compensation from the estate for your time and work, particularly if you're not a beneficiary.

If you are considering accepting the position, ensure that the estate plan is thorough and regularly updated. This can help make your job considerably easier. You may want to ask your relative or friend for a copy of the estate plan and to join in on a meeting with his or her California estate planning attorney before you give your final answer.

Source: AARP, "Things to Know About Being an Executor of Estate," Carole Fleck, Dec. 12, 2017

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