Once you have decided to address your estate planning needs, you may have to make some difficult decisions about who will be the executor (or executrix) of your estate, or the trustee of your trust, because this is the person you will be entrusting to carry out your wishes and manage the estate for your beneficiaries.

You may decide to select your spouse or child, someone else you trust, or some other individual who has no conflict of interest. Typically, your executor should be someone you believe will carry out your wishes and someone who has legal or financial acumen.

Regardless of whom you select, an executor will initially have four main duties:

1. Petition for probate.

If there is a Will, your executor (or “personal representative”) will be responsible for petitioning the court and commencing the probate process.

2. Pay your final debts.

The executor will be responsible for paying the final debts of the estate, including bills, funeral expenses, and final tax returns.

3. Manage and oversee the estate.

The executor is responsible for handling the estate’s affairs, such as managing bank accounts, writing checks, and preserving assets for beneficiaries. In fact, the executor has a legal fiduciary obligation to fulfill this last duty.

4. Distribute estate shares.

The executor will be responsible for distributing assets, and for tracking what has been distributed to whom and when.

When selecting an executor, it is important to remember that one of the main goals of estate planning is to minimize post-death strife and tension, so the best practice is to discuss your intent, and the rationale for the decisions you make, with all involved parties in advance.

For assistance with any of your estate planning needs, or for any other legal matter, contact Fournier Legal Services at jfournier@jeflegal.com or 860.670.3535 now for a free consultation and planning session.