An essential element of estate planning is choosing an executor, also referred to as a personal representative, to administer your estate. This decision can be very difficult. To help you choose the right person to serve as your executor, you might want to consider the duties and responsibilities of an executor.
Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor
An executor or personal representative will be required to perform several tasks to administer your probate estate. The court will require certain tasks and other tasks will be dictated by your estate and the actions of creditors and heirs. Some examples of an executor’s duties and responsibilities in an estate include:
- Opening the probate estate. The executor must complete and file the appropriate forms to open your probate estate in the county of your residence or the county in which you own property. Your executor must determine in which county to file the estate, the forms necessary to open the estate, and the information required on the forms.
- Notifying Heirs and Creditors. When you administer an estate, you are required to notify the heirs of the estate. You are also required to notify any creditors of the estate. In many cases, the probate court has forms for the notification process.
- Secure and Inventory Property. Your executor must secure the property for the estate and prepare a detailed inventory of your assets, including the value of the assets. The inventory includes real estate, financial accounts, business interests, stocks, life insurance policies, personal property, and any other assets you owned or held an interest in at the time of your death. Until the assets are distributed, the executor must take possession of, maintain, and protect the assets of the probate estate.
- File Reports with the Probate Court and Tax Authorities. The court requires several reports as part of the accounting process. Therefore, the executor must maintain detailed financial records, prepare all reports, and prepare and file required tax returns.
- Transferring Assets. Your executor will be tasked with the job of transferring titles and deeds to property in accordance with the terms of your will. In addition, he or she must also distribute all other assets as you direct in your will.
- Reviewing and Paying Claims. Your executor must review and pay valid debts, including claims filed by creditors. As part of the executor’s responsibilities, he or she must review claims and object to any claims that are invalid.
- Defend Your Will. Heirs or other interested parties can file challenges to your will. If someone files an objection or challenge, your executor will need to defend that challenge and argue that your will is valid, and the terms should be followed as your last wishes.
A personal representative or executor might have other duties and responsibilities, such as dissolving a trust if he or she is the trustee or setting up a conservatorship or guardianship for minor children. Depending on the complexity and size of the estate and the abilities of the executor, an executor might want to retain a Michigan probate estate attorney to assist with the duties and responsibilities of administering a probate estate.
Who Should I Choose to Be My Executor?
Choosing someone to administer your probate estate can be difficult. You want someone who knows your wishes and desires and will act in accordance with the terms you outlined in your will. However, you also want someone who can handle the duties required by the court and by law.
When choosing a personal representative, the following qualities are often a good indication that the person is a desirable choice to handle your estate:
- Trustworthy and Honest — Of course, you want some you can trust and count on to carry out your final wishes.
- Business Experience — If your estate includes an interest in a business, it can help to appoint someone who is familiar with operating and/or liquidating a business.
- Attention to Detail — Many of the duties and responsibilities of an executor involve completing lengthy reports. In addition, there can be many steps and issues involved in probating an estate. Someone who can pay close attention to detail is a good characteristic to search for in a personal representative.
- Legal Experience — In some cases, it can help to have legal experience when administering a probate estate. Your executor might need to understand complex rules of law and legal processes.
In the end, you need to choose a person with whom you can place your trust and confidence. You need to choose someone who you are comfortable with to handle your probate estate.
Choosing the Right Person for the Right Job
In many cases, the characteristics you want to look for when choosing an executor are the same characteristics that make a person suitable to serve as a trustee, conservator, guardian, or power of attorney. However, in some cases, your situation might warrant choosing different people to fill different positions. An experienced Michigan estate planning attorney can help you choose the right people for the right job so that you can be confident your estate and your heirs will be in good hands.
For more information or to speak with a Michigan estate attorney, contact The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA. You can contact our office by calling 888-390-4360 or by using the contact form on our website.