Posted By Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. on September 25, 2012
As part of your Last Will and Testament, you will name someone to be your executor. After your death, the executor is the person who will handle the process of opening an estate in the Probate Court and will continue handling all of the duties and responsibilities related to the process until the estate is closed. This can be a difficult and time consuming task.
In Connecticut, the executor you name must submit your Will to the Probate Court within 30 days of your death. Notice will be sent to all of the your heirs prior to the executor being officially appointed by the judge. If there are no objections from the other heirs — and the judge does not have any reason to believe that the executor you have named will perpetrate some sort of fraud or misconduct — he or she will receive a decree from the court naming him/her as executor.
When deciding who to appoint as your executor, it is important to consider some important factors. Your executor will be handling a lot of responsibility and will have numerous deadlines to meet. In the simplest of terms, the executor will be responsible for notifying creditors of your death and keeping track of the outstanding debts owed by your estate. He or she will be responsible for valuing your estate and reporting that to the court. There will be tax forms to prepare, administration expenses to pay, property to secure (and possibly sell) and ultimately, property to distribute to your beneficiaries.
Here are some things to consider:
1) The executor should be chosen based upon his or her ability to do the work, not on his or her relationship to you. The person you name must be responsible and organized. Perhaps you are considering naming your oldest child for the job but in reality, he is completely unorganized and has trouble meeting deadlines. Think again. You might be better off appointing another of your children or even a friend or sibling.
2) Choose someone who is able to handle and resolve conflicts appropriately and in a timely fashion. Family feuds often ensue when money and property are involved. If the person you are considering to serve as executor can’t handle conflict, choose someone else.
3) By all means, do not choose someone who has little or no understanding of finances. The executor will be handling all sorts of financial issues ranging from creditors’ claims to tax liabilities and administration expenses. If your chosen person is bad with money, he or she is not likely to handle your estate appropriately. In fact, such a person is likely to make costly mistakes.
4) It is critically important to choose someone who has at least a basic understanding of the Probate process. Too often, lawyers are called in by executors after they have made a complete mess of things. Such mistakes can be costly and irreparable. The executor you choose should be at least somewhat familiar with the procedures he or she must follow. It is allowable for your executor to hire an attorney to assist in the Probate process and it is often preferable to do so. However, if the executor doesn’t even know to do that much, your estate may be in serious trouble. I recall an estate in which the executor simply started giving away assets such as the decedent’s car. She had no idea that the car would need to be sold in order to pay the estate’s debts. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. The car was given to her cousin, who promptly had an accident during which the car was totally demolished. The executor was held liable, as fiduciary, for the fair market value of the car and had to repay the estate from her own funds for that loss. She consulted with an attorney after the damage had already been done.
Choosing an executor is an important decision. You should have a serious conversation with the person you are considering, as well as the person you wish to name as successor executor if the first person is unable or unwilling to take on the job when the time comes. It is a big responsibility that should not be taken lightly.
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copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.