For most people, a Last Will and Testament serves as the foundation of their estate plan. When you create your Will, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is deciding who to appoint as the Executor of your estate. In addition to deciding who to appoint, the Beverly estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices offer some tips for making your Executor’s job easier.
Probate Basics and the Role of Executor
Over the course of a lifetime, almost everyone acquires assets that comprise their estate at the time of their death. Some people amass a huge estate that includes complex and valuable assets while other people own little more than their personal possessions at the time of death. Regardless of the size and value of assets owned by a decedent, those assets must be identified, valued, and passed down to the new owners. That is the primary purpose of the legal process known as probate. Before those assets are passed down, however, there are a number of duties and responsibilities an Executor must fulfill during the probate process, such as:
- Initiate the probate process
- Inventory, secure, and value assets
- Notify creditors and pay claims
- Litigate claims.
- Prepare, file, and pay estate taxes
- Transfer assets to beneficiaries
Making Your Executor’s Job Easier
Overseeing the administration of an estate can be a time consuming and complicated job, particularly if the decedent did not make an effort to make the task easier for the Executor. The longer it takes to probate your estate, the longer your beneficiaries must wait to receive their inheritance. Likewise, the more it costs to probate your estate the fewer assets that will remain to be passed down to your loved ones. Therefore, you should have sufficient incentive to proactively do what you can to make your Executor’s job easier when it comes time to probate your estate. Some things you can do toward achieving that goal include:
- Discuss the appointment with your Executor. While there is no legal requirement that you discuss your intention to appoint someone as your Executor, doing so is a wise idea. An unwilling Executor is not likely to work as hard or be as careful during the probate of your estate as someone who willingly accepted the appointment.
- Do not use a DIY Will form. It can be tempting to use DIY forms found on the internet in an effort to save money; however, those forms are frequently riddled with errors, mistakes, outdated information, and omissions that lead to confusion, delays, and even litigation during the probate of an estate. Instead, work with an experienced estate planning attorney when you create your Will.
- Keep documents together and easy to locate. Put your Will, trust agreement, life insurance policy, and other estate planning documents together in a marked folder. Keep that folder in a fireproof safe in your home. Do not put documents in a safe deposit box because your Executor will need your Will to prove that he/she has the authority to access the deposit box – except the Will is IN the deposit box.
- Create a detailed list of debts and assets. Your Executor must identify and locate all your assets after you are gone. To make that easier, create a list of all assets that includes a description, location, value, and any other pertinent information for each asset. Do the same for all debts.
- Create a list of passwords and electronic account information. In today’s electronic age we do almost everything on the computer. With that in mind, create another list of social media accounts, online bill payments, investment accounts, and anything else you access on the computer along with the corresponding passwords.
- Consider creating a Letter of Instructions. This is exactly what it sounds like – a letter you create that includes instructions not found elsewhere in your estate plan. You can use this to tell your Executor anything you want from how to winterize your summer vacation home to why you disinherited your children.
- Update your estate plan routinely and as needed. For an Executor, trying to probate an estate with an outdated Will can be worse than not having a Will at all. Imagine, for example, if you got divorced and failed to remove your ex-spouse from your estate plan. Your Executor is now left trying to figure out how to prevent your ex from inheriting your entire estate.
Contact Beverly Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about how you can help your Executor, contact the Beverly estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.