Are you in the process of making an estate plan? Do you need to choose an executor?
The executor of a will is responsible for carrying out its terms. They may do things like distributing your assets, paying off any outstanding bills, and closing out your bank accounts.
A beneficiary, by contrast, is someone who has been selected by the deceased to receive assets.
What will your executor do, and can you choose a beneficiary to also act as your executor?
Let’s take a look.
1. The Role of the Executor
Your will must go through probate, or the legal process that occurs after someone passes away. While you will want to file probate relatively soon after the loss of a loved one, under Georgia law, there is no specific requirement for when probate must be filed.
Your executor will need to let all beneficiaries know about what happened. They must also hire any professionals that could be necessary. These may include an estate planning lawyer or accountant.
Your executor will need to determine the fair market value of all assets you owned. They must also keep track of any bills that are still owed, such as property taxes. Any taxes that are due come from the estate’s account, including the final income taxes of the deceased.
Once the estate is paid off, the executor can get final approval of the accounting in probate court. Assets can then get distributed as specified in the will.
2. Can an Executor Be a Beneficiary?
An executor can be, and often is, also a beneficiary. Someone close enough to have earned your trust in becoming your executor might also be someone who inherits some of your assets. In some cases, the court might actually prefer having a beneficiary as an executor.
A beneficiary executor will likely have an easier job because they may be related to or have a close relationship with other beneficiaries. They will be easy to notify. It may also be easier for them to locate assets, as they may have already discussed it with you.
3. What Should I Look For in an Executor of a Will?
It can be tempting to choose the friend or relative you’re closest to personally as your executor. This may not, however, be the best person to collect your estate and distribute your assets.
First and foremost, your executor should be responsible. You’ll want someone who will distribute your assets fairly and according to your wishes.
You should also think about choosing someone who’s in good financial standing, as they will be able to get bonded.
Bonding is a type of insurance that your probate court will probably deem necessary. It’s there to make sure your beneficiaries get paid in the unlikely event that your executor makes off with the estate funds. It’s not always required in Georgia, but it’s a good idea to select someone that could get bonded if they need to.
Age is also an important consideration when it comes to choosing an executor. If you choose your spouse, you may want to choose at least one younger person who can act as your executor in case they cannot.
You’ll also want to choose an executor who gets along with your other beneficiaries. IF there is bad blood, it’s possible for an executor to try and use their position as a weapon.
4. Do I Need a Lawyer to Write My Will?
Some folks may choose to create a will online rather than hire a professional. Legal kits online are inexpensive, and they provide a template for creating your will based upon the laws and regulations in your state. Online programs ask you a series of questions and allow you to create a basic will.
Oftentimes, however, making the investment in an estate planning attorney pays for itself several times over. This is because you’re paying for legal assistance as well as a physical document.
If, for example, you want to structure your will to protect it from extra estate taxes, you may need a lawyer’s advice or assistance. Or if you have a child with special needs that you need to be cared for in a specific way, your lawyer can help you word your document carefully.
Other complicated legal matters include disinheriting an estranged child or ex-spouse. These require the assistance of a professional who can best advise you on how to structure your document.
5. What Should I Look For in an Estate Planning Attorney?
You won’t want to hire just any lawyer when you’re planning important matters such as your estate. If you can’t get any personal recommendations, search for a lawyer online who has experience in estate planning. You’ll want to choose a local professional, as these folks will be the most familiar with the laws and regulations in your area.
Make sure you scan their website to see if they have part of their practice dedicated to estate planning. Ask about their experience with creating wills during a free initial consultation.
The right lawyer for you will have written many wills. They will be able to answer your questions knowledgeably and treat you with respect. Moreover, you’ll feel confident that your affairs will be handled beautifully after you’re gone.
For the Future
The executor of a will should be someone of a reputable character that you can trust to handle your affairs with fairness and patience. With a little thought and the right legal assistance, you can be sure that what you leave behind will be in good hands.
Don’t stop planning for the future now. For more information on excellent estate planning professionals, contact us today.