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Who should be executor of your estate? Most people name their spouse or a child.

Naming an executor

Your executor should be someone who is emotionally, mentally and physically up to the job – and who will outlive you. Ideally, your executor should not be someone who will inherit, which could cause suspicion or conflicts with other people you wish to benefit in your Will.

Who you should name depends on what your executor must do. Simply stated, an executor’s job is to gather your assets, pay your debts and distribute the rest according to your Will. How difficult this is depends on the circumstances.

Your executor will need to appear in probate court, inventory property and file income tax returns

Whatever the circumstances, your executor will need to appear in probate court for a few minutes and pick up Letters Testamentary. These give your executor authority over your property. Your executor will also need to compile an inventory of your property and file your final income tax return. If your estate earns over $600 in a calendar year in which your executor is administering it, your executor must file a federal income tax return for the estate as well.

Your executor will need to contact financial institutions

Your executor should be someone who is comfortable contacting banks and brokerages (and any life insurance company). If you have not left your executor a list of your accounts and the banks and brokerages holding them, your executor will have a hard time making sure that they go to the right people, whether or not they pass under your Will.

Your executor will need to use the internet

Your executor should be someone who is comfortable using the internet if you use it, whether for social media or for online banking, investing or bill paying. If you have not left your executor an up-to-date list of your online account usernames and passwords or your Will does not give your executor authority to access them, your executor could have a hard time paying bills, collecting money and rewards such as frequent flyer miles.

Your executor will need to sell or transfer property

Your executor may need to be someone who is comfortable selling or transferring a business or real property. The business’s operating agreements may specify what should be done. If not, your executor may need to ask the court to appoint a receiver. If a child or a caregiver has lived with you and mistakenly believe that taking care of you (or saying that they took care of you) or paying property taxes entitles them to your home, your executor may need to have them evicted.

Who your executor should be depends on what they will need to do.

Probate attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.

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