HOW TO HANDLE THE CHALLENGES BEING AN ESTATE EXECUTOR
At some point in your life, you may be asked to serve as executor of a loved one’s estate—a
spouse, a parent, a good friend. Actually, you may not even be asked, but simply find
yourself named in the deceased’s will. But before accepting out of love and duty-bound
honor, be aware of the many duties and challenges of this job.
And it can be a job. Serving as an executor can be time-consuming, complex, emotionally
frustrating and an exhausting experience, even for a modest-size estate. It even carries legal
responsibilities. As “fiduciary,” you must act with the utmost honesty, impartiality and
scrupulousness on behalf of the deceased and the estate’s beneficiaries. This all comes on
top of the fact that you’re going through the emotional loss of the loved one.
Fortunately, you can hire professionals—a financial planner, an attorney, an accountant—
who can provide advice and do much of the actual work. Still, you as executor must ensure
that all work is accomplished and done properly. So keep the following in mind when
deciding whether to accept the role.
The role of an executor—called a personal representative in some states—is to ensure that
the deceased’s estate is properly settled. To adequately accomplish this task, you ideally
should have the time and live near the deceased because you’ll need to go through their
records and work with local officials and state laws. You should be an organized person,
with financial savvy and attention to detail. You should be fair minded (especially if you’re
one of the beneficiaries), yet strong enough to handle squabbles among heirs.
As executor, first thoroughly read the will and any letter of instructions from the deceased,
and you may need to register the will with the court. You’ll need to determine the estate’s
heirs and inventory all property and financial assets to see what passes via the will versus
what goes directly to an heir outside of the will (such as life insurance or a r