You may have recently found out that a family member or a close friend wants you to be their estate executor. Or, maybe a loved one has passed away, and you discovered that they named you estate executor in their will. What do you do? Should you accept the role?
An Estate Executor’s Responsibilities
An estate executor is the person responsible for carrying out someone’s final wishes – the instructions left in their Last Will & Testament. This can include submitting a will for probate, distributing assets and personal items, paying any charitable bequests to the designated organizations, settling any estate debts, and filing taxes on the estate.
While every state has its own laws about who can serve as an executor, in general, the designated person has to be at least 18-years-old and cannot have been convicted of a felony. Georgia law also requires estate executors to be “of sound mind.”
If you’re trying to decide whether you should serve as someone’s estate executor, it’s a good idea to look at the personal requirements. In other words, the characteristics that most estate executors should possess. Executors should be careful, detail-oriented, and organized. They should be patient and comfortable handling different family dynamics (which can sometimes include some heated relationships or stressful situations). Wrapping up someone’s estate can take six months or longer, so an executor should have some spare time or flexibility in their daily schedule. They also should be conscientious and committed to doing a good job.
Hiring Professional Help
Serving as someone’s estate executor doesn’t mean that you have to be a legal or financial expert. You can hire help for that! Executors can use estate funds to hire an estate attorney, CPA, someone to prepare the final tax return, or even a real estate broker. Also, it’s okay to ask the family of the decedent (the person who created the will) for help. They can help you obtain copies of paperwork, make phone calls, sort through a person’s home or belongings, or even help distribute items.
Getting Paid for Serving as an Executor
Many people do not know that if they serve as someone’s executor, that they can be paid for their time. Executor fees can vary, depending on the complexity of the estate and the overall situation. An executor is paid directly out of the probated estate. The amount can be a percentage of the estate, an hourly rate, or a flat fee. It is important to note, however, that executor’s fees are tax-deductible and that an executor doesn’t have to collect those fees.
Turning Down the Role
If you don’t have time to serve as an executor, or you don’t think it’s a good fit for you, it’s okay to say no. You can turn down the role. If your loved one is still in the process of writing their will, you can ask them to select someone else or even name a co-executor or alternate executor. If the probate process has already begun, the named executor can submit a resignation letter to the probate court. The judge will appoint someone new to serve as the executor or estate administrator.
Have Additional Questions About Estate Executors?
If you’re trying to decide whether to serve as an executor, consider the complexity of the person’s estate and family dynamics. You want to make sure that you have sufficient time and the skillset to wrap up the estate. Asking the family for help is totally fine; you can also reach out to legal, financial, and real estate professionals. If you don’t want to serve as an executor, that is also a viable option – just make sure you communicate with the person writing the will or with the appropriate authorities at the probate court.
If you have additional questions about appointing or serving as an estate executor, please reach out. Our team of estate planning attorneys would be happy to help. You can contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates at (770) 933-9009 or via our website.