Thoughts on Being an Executor: The Executor’s Challenge Part II

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Last month you may recall that I began the conversation about being an Executor. It is not unusual for residents to ask their friends to act as their executor or personal representative after they die.

I talked about the time and skills needed to be an effective executor of someone’s estate. Being an organized person with good attention to detail is important.

Additional skills may include the following:

Are you good at resolving conflict? Try to be aware of unresolved family issues that might trip you up. Is this friend of yours estranged from family – children, siblings or nieces and nephews? In my experience, the estranged relatives tend to show up after the funeral. They often are “shocked and surprised” that their late relative did not remember them in their will or trust.

Your friend may have told you that their relative hadn’t contacted them for years not to mention never visiting. That may be true, but those relatives rarely see that as a reason for not remembering them in the will. These situations are unpleasant and stressful to say the least. You may have to be a mediator in addition to tip toeing through the family’s past relationships.

Do you know the rules? Each state is different and has different timelines that must be met. This is why I would always recommend that an attorney be retained to handle the administration of the estate. They will make sure that notices are published in a timely manner and that expenses of the estate are paid.

In addition, an attorney can determine for you if a complete probate needs to occur or perhaps a Summary Administration would be sufficient. Time and expenses are different depending on which type of probate needs to occur. You are personally liable as the executor for the proper administration of the estate.

Can you afford it? For most of our residents, acting as an executor means dealing with the local probate court so travel is not usually a consideration. However, if the deceased has out of state real estate (a summer home perhaps), then a trip to meet with realtors or check out the property may be necessary. Such expenses associated with acting as an executor are reimbursable.

By law almost all states provide that an executor is entitled to payment for acting as executor. After all, this is a significant responsibility. And there is the time involved. What is your time worth? Especially when you are retired, isn’t your time valuable? I think mine would be very valuable.

Being an executor could hamper vacation arrangements and family travel plans. Yet many executors feel that the deceased expected them to do this as a favor. I would suggest this would need to be part of the conversation with your friend before you agree to be their executor. Believe me, this is no windfall. Being an executor can be time consuming.

I hope this has been helpful. Being an executor is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. I would urge everyone who agrees to act as someone’s executor to have a very frank conversation with that person. Make sure you understand all of the issues. Ask the difficult questions. And as always, feel free to contact me if I can be of help.

On behalf of the John Knox Village Foundation, I thank you for your support of all that we do.

— Nanette Olson, Development Director, John Knox Village Foundation