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Carrying Out Final Wishes

So . . . you're the estate executor. Now what?

Learning you have been named as executor of somebody's estate can come as a surprise. While it is better for the decedent to have already pre-arranged with his or her intended executor to carry out these duties, many never get around to having that important conversation.

As one estate lawyer in the United States remarked, "A common adage [says] to name your enemy as your executor as a means of revenge. It's a thankless job. If you appoint someone you love as executor, get your house in order. Otherwise, appoint someone [else]."

It's common for people to choose their family members for these duties, especially if they have a business, accounting or legal background. Some name their spouse, as this is the one person most affected by any financial decisions made about the estate. But not all spouses are willing or able to rise to the occasion and carry out the executor's duties.

In those cases, it's usually best to seek professional legal assistance to avoid making egregious errors that can cost the estate big bucks to rectify.

It's important to remember that no one can be forced to accept the responsibilities of executor of an estate. Some simply don't have the time to do the job properly. While small estates may only take up a limited amount of time, mainly when the estate is first opened and again at its conclusion, managing complex estates can become a full-time job. It is far better to acknowledge one's limitations and turn down the job or seek professional advice than to muddle through and make mistakes.

Another reason why it's a good idea to involve professionals is that when there are multiple beneficiaries, they can mount legal challenges to any decisions made by the executor over personal property for which no heir was specifically designated. Sentimental items of little or no intrinsic value to anyone but the heirs are frequently targets of familial disputes.

Source: Daily Finance, "Who Should You Ask to Be Executor of Your Estate?," Michele Lerner, accessed May 19, 2016

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