Your Guide to Selecting an Executor – Frequently Asked Questions

At James H. Wilson Law Firm, we understand that choosing an executor for your will and estate is a significant decision. To assist with some of the common queries we encounter, we’ve compiled this helpful FAQ.

What Is an Executor?

An executor, or a personal representative in certain states, is someone whom you designate in your will or who is appointed by a court to manage your estate after your passing. Their responsibilities include maintaining property, settling debts and taxes, and ensuring assets are distributed to their intended beneficiaries. Part of the executor’s role may also involve dealing with probate court proceedings, if necessary, either personally or by engaging an attorney to handle the legalities.

Executors may be compensated for their work, with the amount often guided by state law and taking into account the estate’s value, as well as what the probate court deems appropriate. It is common for close relatives or friends who are also beneficiaries to forgo charging for their executor duties.

How Do I Choose an Executor?

Choosing someone to manage your estate doesn’t require them to have specific financial or legal expertise. Many people select their spouse or an adult child, valuing trustworthiness, diligence, and integrity above all else. An executor can always seek professional legal or accounting advice and cover the expenses from the estate if needed.

It’s beneficial to choose someone who is organized, communicative, lives close by, and has a good grasp of your financial circumstances. Often, those inheriting a significant portion of your estate are chosen as they have a vested interest in the careful management of your affairs.

Legally speaking, nearly anyone can be named as your executor, with exceptions typically including minors and individuals with felony convictions. Some states place additional limitations on executors living out of state and may require a bond or an in-state agent.

Before finalizing your will, ensure the individual you’ve chosen is willing to fulfill the role of executor. Remember, even if someone agrees initially, they always have the option to decline or resign from the responsibility at a later date. Should that occur, an alternate executor named in the will, or an appointee from the court, will step in.

Is It Necessary for an Executor to Hire a Lawyer?

Not in every case. While being an executor requires thoroughness and attention to detail, a law degree isn’t mandatory. Probate court involvement typically consists of paperwork, and many executors can manage this without ever stepping foot in court, sometimes handling matters entirely by mail.

An executor can likely navigate the process independently if they are the main beneficiary and the deceased individual’s assets are straightforward and common. Helpful resources can offer valuable step-by-step guidance. However, for more intricate estates or if disputes arise among beneficiaries, an executor may benefit from legal advice.

For assistance, an executor can engage a lawyer as a consultant for legal queries and to review documents or have a lawyer manage the entire probate process. Legal fees are paid from the estate, with costs varying by state and the agreement made with the attorney.

Can an Executor Receive Help from Non-lawyer Sources?

Absolutely. Aside from attorneys, executors can seek help from several sources:

  • Probate court clerks can answer procedural questions, although they refrain from providing legal advice. Some courts have attorneys to help review and correct documents.
  • Other professionals such as accountants or appraisers may be more suitable for specific tasks, such as handling estate taxes.
  • Non-lawyer document preparers, including experienced paralegals, can aid in preparing and filing probate documents.
  • Resource materials remain invaluable for steering executors through the estate management process.

For further assistance or to discuss your specific needs, please contact James H. Wilson Law Firm at 804.740.6464. We’re here to help guide you through every step of estate planning and management.

Contact Us

  1. 1 Free Consultation
  2. 2 Reasonable Fees
  3. 3 Real Solutions to Real Problems

Fill out the contact form or call us at 804.740.6464 to schedule your free consultation.

Leave Us a Message