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What’s it Take to Be a Rockstar Executor?

Agreeing to be an executor for a close friend or a relative is a generous gift.

The Role of the Executor

Agreeing to be an executor for a close friend or a relative is a generous gift. If someone has asked you, you may feel like you’d like to do it and you are honored by the request, but can you handle all the details and requirements? And if you were not asked, but you’ve been chosen, how can you navigate the tasks ahead? 

Below we will try and define what the role requires so you can make an informed decision about serving as an executor. Or, if the role has come to you whether you agreed or not, we hope the information will help make the process easier for you to manage.

Let’s start with what an executor is. An executor is a person who has been asked to “execute” or carry out the instructions in a will. The person who owns the estate is called the “testator.” The testator, or sometimes a court, appoints an executor who takes on the wishes laid out by the will. 

Here are some things to know about the role and how best to prepare for it. 

The Responsibilities 

According to the planning site Cake, though rules vary state-by-state, there are generally ten things an executor will be responsible for: 

  1. Gathering legal documents 
  2. Petitioning the court for probate 
  3. Appraising the estate (cars, houses, etc.) 
  4. Notifying creditors and heirs 
  5. Managing the property in the estate 
  6. Paying debts 
  7. Paying taxes 
  8. Distributing assets 
  9. Preparing final accounting 
  10. Closing the estate

The Paper Trail

Before you agree to take on the role of executor, ask for these documents and this information and request all continue to be updated: 

  • Bank statements, info on bills, debts and assets 
  • Tax records, online passwords, names of lawyers, accountants, etc. 
  • A copy of the will and other important documents 

Settling an estate often necessitates probate. If well-prepared, an executor should be able to manage probate without a lot of headaches, but if the estate is complex, the probate process will be longer

Potentially ‘Messy’ Situations

These situations tend to be more complicated and potentially messy: 

  • Blended families or pending divorce 
  • Real estate in different jurisdictions 
  • Significant tax consequences or bankruptcy 
  • Significant or complex business interests 
  • Significant debt

Navigating Complexity 

The larger the estate, the more likely it is to be complicated. But even small estates with few beneficiaries can be problematic. Understanding the family dynamics involved early on can help you navigate potentially tricky situations

Some options for making your job easier include hiring additional professional support if necessary or asking the testator to downsize the estate now where possible (for example, selling property that is out of state or gifting assets and heirlooms while alive). 

The Gift of Time 

Perhaps your most precious resource to consider as you take on the role of executor is your time. Consider whether you have enough to properly handle all the tasks involved. 

For those who do have the time and the documentation, it is truly a gift for the person who requested you serve and their family. With the right preparation, the job will be much easier. 

If it is possible to partner with the person making the request during their lifetime, you can make it work more smoothly together. 

If the role comes to you, or has already come to you, without the benefit of that person still being around, don’t hesitate to get the support you need to make it work. There’s no shortage of professionals who can help you through the process. Find a nearby provider here. Either way, know that by serving as executor, you are giving the gift of peace of mind to all involved.