Estate planning can be difficult for anyone, but in some ways, the executor of the estate ends up with the hardest job. It is important to talk with your Orange County estate planning lawyer to determine if your chosen executor is right for the task. He or she can help clear up some of the confusion that is associated with the job and help you determine who is the best choice when creating an estate plan in Orange County.
The executor of the estate is the common name for the role of the person who is in charge of handling your affairs after you die.
However, there are specific roles within it that might involve different people and deal with different aspects of your estate according to your planning. For example, a trustee is the person who manages assets held within a trust, while the person who manage assets outside of a trust is called a personal representative in California. Quite often the same person is designated as the trustee and the personal representative is the same person.
Anyone who has an executor role has an important role to play after your death. He or she is primarily responsible for the legal proceedings that take place. Some of these are tedious but not necessarily too difficult, such as making calls to banks, getting copies of the death certificate dispersed, etc. On the other hand, there are aspects of the job that can get quite complicated.
For example, the Trustee must administer your Trust to ensure it is followed in accordance with its terms and California law. A Personal Representative administers property through the probate process in cases where trusts were not set up in advance or through a limited probate proceeding if a Pour-Over Will is involved (this is a different type of will that is used along with a trust; for more information, CLICK HERE.) These legal processes can take many months, and in the event of a full probate can sometimes take years, involving court appearances, filing paperwork, and otherwise completing a multitude of tasks.
For these reasons, it is important to work with your Orange County estate planning lawyer to determine who has the organizational and multi-tasking skills necessary to engage in this process. While it may seem like an honor to ask a friend or family member to take on the executor role, you may really be asking for a great deal of time and effort on his or her part. Watch this video to learn more about things to consider when choosing a trustee.
Anyone given an executor role of the estate also needs to be able to keep a cool head. The death of a loved one, not to mention the promise of an inheritance, can bring out the worst in people. Every time there is a challenge to the trust or will, the trustee or personal representative will be in the middle of it. If he or she is too closely involved, this can have a negative effect on the overall outcome. When the distribution of money or family memorabilia is done, there may still be some hurt feelings and damaged relationships involved. Can the person you choose to hold an executor role handle that?
There are also considerations as to whether you will assign the exector role to more than one person at the same time such that they have co-existing authorities. While sometimes useful, be careful not to simply designate co-authorities simply because you are concerned with other’s hurt feelings or being perceived as choosing sides. Again, another important conversation piece with an estate planning attorney (watch this video to learn more).
Finally, when creating a will in Orange County, you and your estate planning lawyer should approach the potential trustee or personal representative and ask him or her if the job is accepted. The same is true for anyone you are choosing to be responsible for you in the event of your incapacity, such as your power of attorney and health care agent.
Far too often, we see family members who are surprised that they’ve been named to an executor role like a trustee or personal representative, and they are woefully unprepared for the task. When creating an estate plan in Orange County and naming an executor, getting the person’s approval in advance allows him or her to fully understand what the job entails so that your estate can be administered in the best way possible.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He’s all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, veterans and teaching others how to protect what matters most: family, dignity, and legacy. Snyder Law helps parents from Orange County, Los Angeles County, and the greater surrounding Southern California area.