If you have a valid Last Will and Testament in place, the odds are good that your appointed someone very close to you (spouse, adult child, best friend) to be the Executor of your estate. While that choice isn’t always a poor one, it often is. The problem is that most people do not really know what probate entails. As such, they give very little thought to the appointment of their Executor when, in fact, your Executor will directly and usually significantly impact how your estate is handled after you are gone. To ensure that your estate is handled as rapidly as possible and without any unnecessary loss of assets, the Lincolnshire estate planning lawyers at Hedeker Law, Ltd. explain the role of Executor.
The overall job of your Executor is to oversee the probate of your estate. Probate is the legal process that is typically required following an individual’s death. The law requires a decedent’s estate to go through probate for several reasons, including to ensure that all of the decedent’s assets are properly identified and transferred to the new owners. One of the many advantages to executing a Last Will and Testament is the ability to appoint an Executor, meaning you are able to choose the person who oversees the administration of your estate. If you were to die without having a Will in place, or “intestate,” any competent adult could volunteer to oversee the probate of your estate. If no one volunteered, the court would have to appoint a complete stranger to the position.
Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor
Although the overall job of your Executor is to oversee the probate of your estate, to accomplish this overall goal an Executor must perform a wide range of duties and responsibilities, including:
- Securing documents and assets. Often, an Executor is grieving the loss of a family member or close loved one; however, he/she must act quickly to prepare for the opening of probate. An original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament must be located and certified copies of the decedent’s death certified ordered. Any additional estate planning documents should also be located and secured.
- Identifying and securing assets. As soon after the decedent’s death as possible, the Executor should start identifying and securing estate assets. This may be as simple as closing a bank account or as complex as shutting down a business. A preliminary decision must also be made regarding what type of probate is required – formal or an alternative to formal for small estates.
- Initiating probate. Probate usually occurs in the county wherein the decedent was a resident at the time of his/her death. To open the probate of an estate the Executor must obtain a certified copy of the death certificate, a signed, original copy of the decedent’s Will, and a petition to open probate. By this point, most Executors have retained the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who will prepare the necessary petition.
- Categorizing and valuing assets. The Executor must obtain a date of death value for all estate assets and decide if they are probate or non-probate assets because some assets bypass the probate process entirely.
- Notifying creditors and reviewing claims. Known creditors may be notified individually. Unknown creditors are notified via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors then have a statutory amount of time to file a claim against the estate. The Executor, must review all claims and approve or deny them.
- Litigating any challenges. If a Will contest is filed, the Executor is required to defend the Will submitted for probate throughout the litigation that will follow.
- Paying taxes. The Executor must determine if any state or federal gift and estate taxes are due from the estate. All necessary tax returns must be filed and any tax debt owed must be paid out of estate assets.
- Distributing assets. Finally, the Executor must prepare any necessary legal documents to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries.
Contact Lincolnshire Estate Planning Lawyers
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns regarding who to appoint as your Executor, contact an experienced estate planning lawyer at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.