Estate planning isn’t just about divvying up your assets or deciding who will become the guardian of your minor children should you die unexpectedly. It’s also about naming the individuals you trust to carry out your legal and financial affairs if you die or become incapacitated. This includes naming the estate executor.
The executor is someone who’s entrusted with a lot of the behind-the-scenes administration of your estate, and it needs to be someone you believe to be responsible. Before selecting an executor, of course, it’s important to know what the job actually entails. In this post, we will answer the question of what is an estate executor in some detail.
In a lot of ways, you might think of the executor as the person whose job it is to manage the carrying-out of your will and other estate planning documents. Additionally, though, an executor is expected to gather all of the deceased’s personal effects and keep them in his or her care prior to distribution through the will. Items gathered may also include important documents and information pertaining to the deceased—such as log-ins for online banking portfolios or social media accounts.
None of us know exactly when our time will come, or how many loose ends we’ll leave behind. The executor is tasked with tidying up some of those loose ends. For instance, he or she is expected to handle any pending taxes and debts that the deceased may still have. Tax returns and estate taxes are usually covered, paid for by the deceased’s assets. Filing the last income tax returns also falls to the executor.
The executor’s final task is handling the distribution of assets. He or she must follow what is stated in the will, giving items to their designated recipient. Probate may be involved if some assets are not specifically covered by the will—though with the right help (and assistance from experienced estate planning lawyers in California), probate court can hopefully be avoided.
In explaining what is an estate executor, we also have to touch on how long the job lasts. Ideally, the executor will be brought into the loop early and kept alert as to any changes made to the estate plan. Generally, you don’t want an executor who’s in the dark about things! During the first three months after the individual’s death, the executor may have to make a lot of snap decisions—though again, the goal is to lay out as much as possible in the will, making the executor’s job smooth and clear. There may be a few lingering tasks beyond that point, but generally estates are more or less resolved in that timeframe.
Executors need not be extraordinary people; they just have to be honest, careful, and selfless individuals who will put the estate’s welfare above all else. This might be a sibling, an adult son or daughter, or a good friend.
Also note that estate executors don’t have to carry out their responsibilities all by themselves. They can and should seek guidance from seasoned estate planning attorneys—such as the lawyers at Singh Law Firm.
As leading estate planning lawyers in California, we’re always here to advise executors on how best to carry out their duties. We can also counsel you on how to pick the best executor for your own estate. To learn more about advanced estate planning or trust administration, please contact us at Singh Law Firm today.