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Carrying Out Final Wishes

The responsibility of estate administration

Congratulations, you've been named as executor of your late friend's or family member's estate. It may seem a dubious honour, but it means that the person trusted you a great deal.

As such, it's important that you are capable of carrying out their wishes as they intended. That may sound simpler than it actually is, however. An executor does not have to be a financier, but he or should have a working knowledge of business management, especially if a trust is involved. If it is a relatively small estate with only a couple of beneficiaries, it may not be all that difficult to administer.

It's important to be honest with yourself about your abilities and the time constraints involved with administering an estate. If you don't feel up to the task, you have options available to you. You could outright refuse the responsibility, leaving it up to the courts to name another administrator, or you could hire an estate administration lawyer to oversee the process in your stead.

The latter option is often the better choice when there is a lot of in-fighting and the decedent's heirs and beneficiaries don't get along with one another. This can happen in nuclear families, but is more likely to occur in blended families. By hiring a lawyer or corporate trustee to carry out the administration of the estate, you will create a buffer between you and any disgruntled heirs.

Sometimes a person is startled to learn that he or she has been named administrator for a former in-law's or long lost friend's estate. That usually happens when the deceased failed to update his or her estate plan when major life changes occurred. It is perfectly acceptable to decline the responsibility if it would create an uncomfortable situation for you.

Source: AARP, "Choose the Right Executor or Trustee," G.M. Filisko, accessed June 16, 2016

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