Selecting an Executor

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What are an Executor's Responsibilities?

The executor is responsible for the complete administration of a deceased person's estate.  An "estate" usually includes both assets and debts, and it is the executor's responsibility to pay off these debts, as well as distribute the remaining assets to those inheriting under the will or intestate.   

Powers Held by an Executor

An executor has full power of title to all property in the decedent's estate, enabling him or her to manage all required transactions for administration. Once the administration is complete, the executor's powers are terminated. The executor is required to proceed in the settlement and distribution of the estate without court order; however, if there are any conflicts or questions, the executor can initiate a court proceeding to help resolve them.

Who Can Be an Executor?

Generally, a person drafting a will has complete freedom in selecting who will be their executor. Some states have, by statute, established certain requirements and prohibitions for executors. For example, certain states prohibit minors from serving as executors. But in most cases, unless there is clear indication of incompetence or threat to the estate, deference is given to the executor appointed in the will.

Selecting the Right Executor

Depending on the liabilities and requirements of the estate, an executor's responsibilities can become quite complicated and time-consuming. In selecting an executor, trustworthiness, an awareness of the likely duties and a willingness to undertake them are important factors to consider. 

Selecting an appropriate and qualified executor can help ensure that your wishes are carried out, and prevent any additional difficulties or burdens on the part of  your heirs because of executor incompetence. While providing for the executor in the will is not a requirement, selecting one of the heirs as an executor is often considered an effective and expedient choice.

I Am an Heir - Can I Contest Who Was Appointed Executor?

Executor appointments can be contested by any heirs to the estate (people who stand to receive property from the deceased person). Interested parties can initiate court proceedings to disqualify executors for incompetence, inability or mismanagement, if necessary. If an executor is removed, the court will likely appoint a replacement executor if the deceased's will does not name an alternate executor. 

Do I Need an Attorney to Select an Executor?

While selecting an executor does not, in and of itself, require consultation with an attorney, when drafting a will and managing an estate of any size, it is always a wise thing to consult an experienced estate planning attorney who can explain all of your options and help you understand what types of wills or trusts are right for you and your family.  Likewise, if you are appointed an executor or wish to contest the appointment of an executor, you will likely need the services of an attorney. 

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Last Modified: 06-17-2013 12:24 PM PDT

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