This is an article from Parman & Easterday (www.parmanlaw.com) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that we thought others may find helpful.
When choosing the executor of a will, it is important to understand what an executor (sometimes called a personal representative) does, so you can make informed choices about who would be a good person to fill this role. While many people just select their closet relative by default, this is not always the best approach to take. The executor has really important responsibilities when it comes to the probate process, therefore the decision on who should serve as an executor is an important choice.
What to Look for When Choosing an Executor of a Will
When choosing an executor of a will, you are selecting the person who will be in charge of the myriad tasks necessary to wind up the affairs of the estate. You need someone who can handle these tasks:
- Filing appropriate court paperwork with the probate court. Probate has to occur in the county in which the deceased died or in which property is owned The executor needs to determine where probate is to be filed and what court documents will be required.
- Providing required notifications. Beneficiaries and creditors are among those who need to be notified during the probate process.
- Inventorying assets: An executor must determine what assets constitute the probate estate.
- Managing assets: Until the assets are transferred to new owners, the executor is in charge of taking care of the property and protecting the assets.
- Complying with accounting requirements. Executors must keep financial records and handle all accounting issues, including the filing of income tax returns, if required.
- Changing titles and deeds: When assets transfer to new owners, these and other legal documents need to be updated.
- Defending a will: If a will is challenged, executors will secure legal representation to defend the will.
This is just a brief list of the different tasks an executor of a will is going to have to handle during the probate process. All of these tasks must be taken care of right after a death, when loved ones of the deceased are likely coping with grief and trying to manage family affairs.
Because there are so many different things executors must do, you need to make certain you select a person with the knowledge, interest, and abilities to handle all of these legal steps.
Characteristics of a Good Executor of a Will
As you consider who would be a good executor of a will, you should think about your family, friends, and even business associates. Determine who would be willing and able to fulfill the role. While your own choice is very personal to you, some of the characteristics you may wish to look for include:
- Honesty: You need someone who is trustworthy and can be counted on to do what is best for you and your beneficiaries.
- Attention to detail: There are a lot of steps to take during the probate process and a number of different things for which the executor will be responsible.
- Investment or business knowledge: Depending upon what property and investments are a part of your estate and how much knowledge is required to manage them; you may need to choose an executor with financial savvy.
- The ability to grasp complex concepts. Executors have to understand legal rules and processes, estate tax rules and guidelines, and other technical details about the probate process.
The good news is your executor can and should get legal help, so look for someone who can work effectively with a lawyer to make sure your wishes are respected.
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