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Choosing an executor for your estate

You have devoted significant care and thought to your estate plans. To ensure the desired and intended implementation of your will's provisions, you also need to select an appropriate executor, also called a personal representative.

Understanding the executor's role can help you assess whether a particular person you have in mind is willing and able to handle the role in its entirety. Because life can take unpredictable turns, it is also prudent to include an alternative appointment in case your first choice can no longer take on this task. If you do not select an executor, the court can appoint an administrator.

Starting the process

The executor initiates probate proceedings by presenting the will to the court and filing appropriate documentation. Once confirmed, he or she takes charge of the estate and creates a complete inventory of its assets and liabilities. For assets such as real estate and business shares, a valuation may be necessary. The executor must notify the estate's beneficiaries and creditors of the probate proceedings. 

Dealing with liabilities

Before distributing assets in accordance to the will, the executor must pay the estate's debts. If any amounts or debts are subject to dispute, the executor likely has a duty to pursue the matter rather than simply pay the alleged debt. He or she may need to consult an attorney to determine the status of any liabilities and whether they survive the testator's decease. This obligation also includes dealing with any taxes due from the estate.

Implementing the will

The executor must distribute the estate's assets according to the will's provisions, no matter his or her personal view of the content. When choosing your executor, you may want to consider whether your candidate may have moral or emotional objections that could make it difficult to comply with your wishes.

Submitting an accounting

Finally, the executor presents a detailed accounting of all transactions concerning the estate's assets to the court and winds up the estate. If the estate becomes involved in a lawsuit, an executor acts as the estate's representative.

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