Taking on the role of executor to a family member or loved one’s estate can feel like a great honor. However, agreeing to act as the executor or personal representative comes with far more responsibility than most people realize.
The executor to an estate doesn’t just read a will and distribute assets. The position requires you to handle all of the deceased’s unfinished business; from settling unpaid debts to locating all of their assets. Not to mention what could be a long and burdensome process in probate court.
Before you sign on to be an executor, there some important factors to consider. Here are a few things you should know before you agree to serve as an executor to a loved one’s estate.
It’s a time commitment
Before you accept the role of executor to an estate, you’ll want to think about how the duties will fit into your daily life. The probate process can take months or even years, depending on the size of the estate and the number of beneficiaries.
If you have a busy work schedule or demanding home life that’s hard to step away from, adding the responsibility of executor may not be realistic for you. However, you can request to see a current copy of the will before accepting the position to get a sense of what your duties will entail.
There may be disputes
Everyone has heard horror stories about relatives fighting over their inheritance – sometimes even before the funeral is over. While the executor of an estate simply acts as the messenger for the deceased, sometimes enforcing a loved one’s legacy can lead to uncomfortable family conflicts.
Before you accept the appointment of executor, ensure that your loved one’s will has clear instructions on how you should handle the distribution of their assets. If you notice any big red flags, such as one sibling getting more than another, you may consider leaving the job to someone else.
You will be personally liable
When you act as executor, you’ll have to follow the state’s executor laws strictly. Executors to an estate are personally liable for the proper administration of the deceased’s finances and possessions. If you should misrepresent assets or shortchange a beneficiary, the IRS or beneficiaries will hold you personally accountable.
Whether you’re dealing with a large or small estate, certain tasks may seem complicated or overwhelming. Many executors will choose to consult with an attorney or hire them for the entire process to ensure they are serving in accordance with state laws.
Acting as executor is a big undertaking, but the responsibility must fall to someone. Before you accept the position, be sure you understand what is required from you and whether you are prepared for the role.