What Qualities Should You look for When Choosing An Executor?

Choosing your executor (personal representative) is an important part of the estate planning process. This will be the individual who will be taking care of all the logistical matters surrounding your Last Will and Testament and seeing to it that your final wishes are carried out. The Law Offices of Patricia Bloom-McDonald assists clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts in planning their estates and helping them to choose appropriate executors.

All that careful work you’ve done with your estate planning attorney means little the Executor does not manage your estate properly.

Duties Performed by Your Executor:

How time-consuming and complex these duties will be is largely determined by the size of your estate and how complicated your assets are (i.e. whether you have a high-net-worth estate and whether you own various sizable properties, businesses, or collections of cars, antiques, etc.) Your personal representative will be legally responsible for:

  • Filing a copy of your Last Will and Testament with the probate court that has proper jurisdiction; and

  • Notifying all relevant financial entities of your death: banks, credit card companies, the Social Security Administration and any other necessary government agencies; and 

  • Determining whether probate is necessary since certain trusts and jointly held property may be distributed without the need for probate court involvement; and

  • Representing your estate in probate court if such representation becomes necessary; and

  • Creating a bank account to receive incoming funds and pay final bills of the estate; and

  • Filing an inventory of your assets with the probate court; and

  • Maintaining estate property until it can be distributed or sold; and

  • Paying estate taxes that are due (including estate taxes for high-net-worth estates) and any other outstanding debts; and

  • Distributing assets to heirs and/or beneficiaries (this can only be done after all taxes and other debts have been paid.)

If you already have a competent estate planning attorney, your executor will usually be well-served by using that individual throughout the process. 

Problems Your Executor May Face:

In many cases, the executor’s job may be simple and straightforward, but situations can arise that make it more difficult to complete the necessary tasks. If you run into any of the following problems, you will be grateful to have a capable estate planning attorney at  your side:

  1. Impatient or uncooperative heirs or beneficiaries who don’t understand why they cannot have their inheritance immediately or why they can’t take cherished possessions from the decedent’s home until it is determined whether the decedent has left those possessions to them rather than others. The estate attorney will likely recommend that a vacant house be secured until it is time for distribution of the deceased’s property.

  1. Being an executor is much more time-consuming than expected. Settling an estate can take a year or more, so your personal representative may be obligated to make a significant time investment in this project. This is more likely to occur if your estate is large with many properties. Your executor may find that she or he is spending too much time away from their own personal responsibilities or from their loved ones and would be delighted to find that the estate attorney can take over such matters as dealing with the Social Security Administration and filing the necessary legal documents with the probate court. 

  1. Being a personal representative means being accountable for your wishes in your Last Will and Testament, Trust, and memorandum. It may involve personal liability on the part of the executor. Though you will no doubt choose someone trustworthy to be your executor, that individual will be held liable for oversights and other mistakes. Having a skilled estate attorney to guide your executor can mean the difference between a smooth process or a difficult process. A sharp lawyer will make sure that a lawsuit that might use up a big chunk of the estate’s assets is avoided. 

The Law Offices of Patricia Bloom-McDonald will help your executor to make sure that no assets are distributed until every tax payment is made and every creditor who has made a claim on the estate is paid. The Law Offices of Patricia Bloom-McDonald will also be on hand to make sure that all transactions to do with your estate are legitimate, and that your executor is not been taken advantage of by predatory creditors or scam artists.

Traits to Look for in Your Executor

Because of the multiple tasks your executor will have to manage, it is best to choose someone for the position who is not only trustworthy but is also:

  • Ethical and fair-minded; and

  • Has good organizational skills and is efficient; and

  • Has the ability to handle money wisely; and

  • Has strong interpersonal skills; and  

  • Has an even temperament. 

It is also important to remember that the person you choose as your personal representative may decline to take on the position, so you must discuss this with the person you want to act in that capacity before you name her or him in your Last Will and Testament.

Because of the personality traits needed to be a first-rate executor, you will be better off choosing someone who is a good fit for the job rather than the person you love most. Also, it’s a good idea to choose someone younger than you who is less likely to predecease you. If you don’t find the right person, you may assign the role to a financial institution, or your trusted accountant.

The Law Offices of Patricia Bloom-McDonald frequently advises and assists personal representatives who may be undertaking duties unfamiliar to them. The Law Offices of Patricia Bloom-McDonald is happy to use its vast experience to help clients through the challenging period of settling an estate, especially during the time that the personal representative may also be grieving over the loss of the decedent. The Law Offices of Patricia Bloom-McDonald can take over portions of the legal tasks the Personal Representative is faced with efficiently and with great care.