By Patricia Nugent
An integral component to drafting a will is appointing the person you want to carry out its legal instructions: the executor.
Since setting up wills and trusts is a big part of elder law, we reached out to local expert Attorney Margaret T. Karl for some insight.
“When a will goes to probate, the named executor is the person whose responsibility it is to oversee all the details of the estate, from dissolving the assets to making disbursements to beneficiaries who are named within the will, to paying all the estate bills including taxes and funeral expenses,” says Margie. “This involves a lot of documentation. There will be terminating accounts and credit cards, as well as notifying agencies such as Social Security of the death. Officially, the estate is not considered closed until all of that is finished.”
An attorney should be hired to help process the estate.
“I’ve seen people over the years try to handle the documentation themselves, but, in the long run, that isn’t a good idea,” she says.
In addition to naming an executor in a will, people often name an alternate person, in case something happens to the first selected person.
Who Makes a Good Candidate for Executor?
“It goes without saying you should appoint someone who is honest, dependable and well-organized,” she says. “And I would further say availability and accessibility are also important factors to consider, as there’s so much involved. Most often executors are family members or close friends. I recommend, whomever you select, that you get his or her approval before doing so. And also let that person, as well as your whole family, know where you keep your will and other important documents.”
Margie also recommends taking a look at your will every few years to make sure it’s up to date. “For instance, the person you chose as an executor might be older than when you drafted the will, maybe living in a senior care facility and not able to handle all the details. This could put up roadblocks to the time it takes to close the estate.”
And even in today’s world of instantaneousness, closing a person’s estate can take some time. Margie estimates the average amount of time it takes to close someone’s estate from when the will is read is about 18 months.
Looking for further advice about appointing an executor and drafting a will? March and April are great months to make an appointment for a free half-hour consultation with Margie, as people are gathering their financial documents for tax preparation purposes.
Margaret T. Karl, Attorney at Law is located at 1100 West Bagley Road, Suite 210, in Berea. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. For more information, call 440-973-4145 or visit BereaOhioLaw.com.
To view original Mimi Vanderhaven article click here.
(Photography: Benjamin Margalit)