If you’ve been asked to serve as executor of the estate of a friend or family member, be sure you understand the responsibilities and potential risks before you agree. Keep in mind that you’re not required to accept the appointment, but once you do it’s more difficult to extricate yourself should you change your mind.
Here are some questions to consider before accepting the offer:
What’s your relationship to the individual? If he or she is a close family member, consider not accepting the appointment if you think your grief after his or her death will make it difficult to function effectively in the executor role.
Are you willing and able to take on the duties of an executor? Generally, an executor is responsible for arranging probate, identifying and taking custody of the deceased’s assets, making investment decisions, filing tax returns, handling creditors’ claims, paying the estate’s expenses, and distributing assets according to the will. Although you can seek help from professionals — such as attorneys, accountants and investment managers — it’s still a lot of work, sometimes for little or no compensation. Ask if there’s an executor’s fee and whether the estate has set aside funds to pay for professional advisors.
What’s your location? If you live far away from the place where the assets and beneficiaries are located, the job will be more difficult, time consuming and expensive.
Do you have a good relationship with the beneficiaries? If not, accepting the appointment may put you in a difficult position, especially if you’re also a beneficiary and the other beneficiaries view that as a conflict of interest.
Will the estate pay your expenses? Even if you receive no fee or commission for serving as executor, be sure the estate will pay, or reimburse you, for any out-of-pocket costs.
Finally, some individuals appoint co-executors. For example, they may select one person who knows the family and understands its dynamics and an independent executor with the requisite expertise. So, be sure you know if you’ll be serving as executor solo or with a partner. Having a co-executor may come as a relief or it may add more complications. Contact us for additional information.