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Things to Know When Choosing an Executor for Your Estate

Old Couple with Executor
An important thing you should consider doing when you create your will is who will fill the role of executor for your estate. If you do not choose one, then the court may choose someone for you, and their choice may not be your choice. You should take great care when choosing an executor so that the entire probate process runs smoothly.

Here is more information on what an executor does, who can be an executor, and how to plan to reduce this person's burden.

Role of the Executor

The executor works with the courts to help execute the will during probate as well as tie up any unfinished business. Executors are responsible for locating all of your assets and dealing with any of your creditors and unpaid bills. He and she will also need to determine the death value of both your probated and non-probate assets and file your final tax return. The executor is always compensated, usually from the assets of the estate.

Requirements for Being an Executor

The legal requirements for being an executor in California are simple: The person has to be at least 18 years and be of sound mind. Other than that, you should look for other traits such as being financially responsible and trustworthy, preferably someone with good credit. Executors can be a close relative, friend, or even a private company.

Be aware that even if you choose someone, the court has the final say, and if they find a problem with your choice, they will choose another person.

Potential Problems When Choosing an Executor

Sometimes, if you create your will long before your death, your chosen executor may be unavailable when you die. The person might be deceased or incapacitated. In this case, appointing a backup executor, preferably someone who is younger, would be of benefit.

If you choose a family member as an executor, then be aware that many times families bicker about their inheritance and some may not like that your choice of executor. In this case, you may want to choose someone who is not a beneficiary.

Reasons for Removal of a Beneficiary

Generally, if your executor is of legal age, mentally competent, and willing, the court will likely approve your choice. However, if an interested party (usually a beneficiary) finds any mismanagement or neglect of the estate, they can petition the court to remove said executor and have a new one put in place.

Examples of mismanagement may include things like not selling assets as required, failing to manage your creditors, or not distributing your assets according to your wishes.

Ways to Reduce Your Executor's Burden

To be an executor is a tough, often emotional job that can last for several months. You can help make things go more smoothly by reducing the amount of assets that end up in probate. For example, if you have a trust, then the trustee will have the main responsibility of managing that asset.

Certain types of accounts and real estate also might not be subject to probate. Leaving as little as possible up to the probate court will not only make it easier for the executor, but also help make the process less cumbersome and quicker.

To choose an executor is a huge responsibility and should be planned carefully. If you are choosing an individual, be sure to sit down and have a discussion with that individual. You may also want to consider a backup or two in case something happens to the first one.

Be sure to revisit the topic with your attorney and your chosen representative every few years to make sure the people involved are still willing to fulfill their role. If you are in the process of making a will or need help choosing an executor, then contact the Law Office of Leon A. Karjola to get the process started.