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Basic Questions About Estate Planning – I’ve Been Asked to Serve as Executor. What Should I say?

When someone asks you to serve as executor of their estate, you need to understand that the job comes with specific responsibilities and duties. While it might be an honor to be trusted enough to serve as an estate executor, administrator, or the trustee of a trust, you should only accept the position if you are prepared to carry out the job’s tasks. To determine whether you should accept or decline the appointment, there are a number of questions you will need to ask yourself.

Do you have the time to serve as an executor?

An executor’s responsibilities begin immediately following the decedent’s death. As an executor, it is your responsibility to ensure that the estate will be properly managed until such time as it can be redistributed to new owners. This includes, for example, the ability to take control over any of the personal property left behind by the decedent. In many situations it’s common for much of this property to “walk off” before the probate or estate administration process can be concluded. If you don’t have the time to make sure the estate is managed properly, and the property protected, you probably should decline the nomination.

Do you have a keen attention to detail?

Most executors typically have an estate planning and probate attorney serving as an advisor to guide them through the probate and estate settlement process. However, it is typically not be attorney’s job to actually manage the estate, as the executor has the legal responsibility to carry out any necessary tasks. Many of these tasks require an attention to minor details. If you are not the kind of person who feels like you can carry out detailed steps or painstaking processes, you might not be the best person to serve as executor.

Do you have the patience to serve as executor?

In the best case scenario, the estate settlement and probate process will finish as quickly and as easily as possible, but even then the process might take up to a year or more. Not only that, but there are a number of conflicts and disagreements that can arise as an executor goes about the settling of an estate. If you are not comfortable with managing a process that could last a very long time, or which might involve conflict or disagreement, you might need to decline the nomination to serve as executor.

On the other hand, if you are levelheaded, patient, and able to act responsibly, serving as an executor can be surprisingly rewarding. As the executor you will be in the position to ensure that the estate will be protected, and will serve as the instrument through which the decedent’s final wishes are carried out.

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