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Choosing the Executor of Your Estate Plan

April 13, 2016

When you are taking steps toward establishing your estate plan and getting your documents in order to protect against future uncertainty, there are several items to consider. As part of your plan, you will choose agents to act in your place for health care decisions (Health Care Proxy) and legal or financial decisions (Power of Attorney) which need to be made if you are alive but unable to make the decisions for yourself. 

In addition, you must select an individual that you trust to be primarily responsible for the implementation of your Last Will and Testament as well as the management of your estate after you have passed away. This may or may not be the same individual you have chosen as your agent under your Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney. Deciding who should be the executor of your Will is not a light decision to make—follow the tips below to make an educated choice.

What criteria should be in mind when choosing an executor?

There are few legal limitations constricting who can be your executor. The threshold requirement is that the individual is a legally competent adult who has not been convicted of a felony. You may name your spouse, sibling, adult child, close friend,  business associate, or perhaps a financial or legal advisor as your executor.  In some instances, a corporate entity or bank may serve the role. It is also possible to name two or more individuals to act as co-executors.

What duties does an executor perform?

Being an executor entails many complex and time-consuming duties that necessitate knowledge of both legal and tax matters. Typically, and executor works closely with the estate’s attorney to administer the estate. An executor’s responsibilities include:

  • To locate the Will once the individual has passed
  • To contact an attorney to represent the estate
  • To “marshal” the estate assets (collect assets and keep them safe until they are distributed to beneficiaries)keep them
  • To issue notices to the beneficiaries of the estate;
  • To make distributions to the assigned beneficiaries;
  • To prepare and file estate tax returns and be sure taxes are paid;
  • To prepare and maintain accounting records;
  • To attend federal and state audits, if needed, to defend estate tax returns;
  • To collect the income on the estate; and
  • To pay any and all estate expenses.

If you are in the process of preparing your estate plan, trust our Elder Law department to help with any issues you may have. Please contact HoganWillig with any questions about the above material, or if you wish to speak to an attorney, at 716-636-7600. HoganWillig is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York 14068, with additional offices in Buffalo, Lancaster, Lockport, and Ellicottville.