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Can you handle the role of an executor?

If a loved one asks you to serve as executor of their will, it may seem like a great honor. However, serving as executor is a big undertaking, and many people aren’t aware of the many responsibilities that accompany the role.

An executor of a will is a person who manages the affairs of a deceased person’s estate. They collect and oversee the distribution of assets during probate, file estate tax returns when necessary and close the estate. But estates can be complex, and the probate process can last for months or even years in extreme cases.

Before you take on the executor’s role, it’s essential to understand the issues that can arise on the job. Here are three surprising challenges of estate planning you should consider before agreeing to be an executor of a will:

1. It eats up a lot of time

As mentioned above, acting as an executor can be time-consuming – especially if the estate is large and complicated. Even if everything goes smoothly, there is still a great deal of time contacting various government agencies, securing all assets and distributing them.

Fortunately, you don’t always have to take on executor duties alone. You may consider enlisting the help of an attorney or CPA to help you navigate the process more efficiently.

2. It could lead to conflicts with heirs

An executor is essentially a messenger for the deceased. Your role is only to secure assets and divide them according to the wishes of the will, but unfortunately, heirs don’t always make this process easy. Death can bring out the worst in families, especially when items of high monetary or sentimental value are involved.

To avoid conflict, try to quickly secure all property and assets and inform the heirs of the deceased that it is the law. Try to be as transparent as possible about the will-writer’s wishes and let heirs know what they can expect.

3. There may be out-of-pocket expenses

While the executor is usually permitted a commission for performing their duties, the amount of the commission is typically determined by the size of the estate. In many cases, you may be asked to waive any commission for your work, especially with smaller estates.

Consider paying any costs associated with the estate from an estate checking account and keep track of any out-of-pocket expenses you make as an executor. The estate may be able to reimburse some of these costs.

Acting as executor is an important job, but it isn’t without challenges. Before you agree to the responsibility, be sure you understand what your duties will entail.

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