While considering your Fort Worth, TX estate planning, you’ll probably be thinking of who your beneficiaries are, and what you’ll be giving to them. But before you do that, you should give more thought to who will be overseeing the distribution of your estate’s assets. Before you say “my kids,” or “my spouse,” you may want to give it more thought.
What An Executor Does
This is the person (or persons) who will handle your affairs after you pass and makes sure everything is carried out accordingly. He or she will pay the bills, sell and distribute properties, and even file a lawsuit if necessary. This is someone you should consider as carefully as you would to handle affairs if you were incapacitated and couldn’t do these things yourself.
If your spouse, child or children aren’t up to the task, or you don’t believe they would have the ability to be an effective executor, it’s time to think about who else to name. Find an individual who you know you can trust after you’re gone, such as a friend or other relative. You can also appoint an attorney, banker, or another person who you know will be able to handle things objectively and take the burden off your family’s shoulders. However, hiring a professional means that your estate will have to pay for it, but it may be worth it.
The executor will take control of all the assets listed in your will and distribute them as instructed. Any debts in your Fort Worth estate are also part of the executor’s duties, which can include:
- Hiring an attorney and attending court sessions related to probate
- Take inventory and conduct appraisals of all property in the estate
- Collect any money that’s owed to the estate
- Selling property as directed by the will or by state law to cover the estate’s expenses or legacies
- Notifying your bank, credit card and other companies
- Notifying the Social Security Administration, Veteran’s Administration, the DMV and other governmental agencies
- File final tax returns for you and your estate
- Distribute property to your will’s beneficiaries as instructed
- Keeping detailed records of all the estate’s transactions for probate court and beneficiaries
After all of the executor’s duties are completed, he or she can then petition the court to close your estate and discharge them.
Who Should You Choose?
Working to clear up your affairs and close your estate is time consuming and may be difficult, depending on how many assets you have. Think about how it will affect the person you choose.
Picking one child over another, or even a distant relative can inflame any family tensions at an already emotionally charged time for everyone. An individual who is level-headed, emotionally grounded, and has the patience of a saint is your best choice, whether or not he or she is related.
Your executor should be a responsible individual, no matter who they are. An executor is a “paid position,” so you want to make sure that they have the ability to make decisions, contact people and handle everything the way you intended.
Since an executor will be signing checks, the court will require a type of insurance, called “bonding.” For this reason alone, you’ll want to make sure they are of good financial standing. Someone with bad (or no) credit, in debt, or has filed bankruptcy and has judgments filed against them will not be eligible, including those with criminal records, minors, and individuals from other countries that don’t live in the US.
You can pick someone who doesn’t live in your area. Many of the required tasks can be completed remotely, with in-house services contracted out (such as a moving service.) On-site things, such as clearing and cleaning out a home, should have a responsible person to oversee the work.
An alternate executor is also a good idea, in case the first individual you chose isn’t able to take the job, or is no longer available.
This article from The Texas A&M Foundation suggests choosing someone who is honest, dependable and well-organized. Whether that’s your spouse and/or children or a trusted friend, they also suggest picking someone who is younger and healthy so that they will be more likely to be around when you’re gone.
If you are still not sure who would be best to handle your estate, the Foundation suggests finding someone through either the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. The costs of hiring an executor is paid for through your estate.
Tarrant County offers this guide for independent executors, laying out the requirements as well as penalties for failing to carry out duties.
Working With a Fort Worth Estate Planning Attorney
Attorney Wendy L. Hart has extensive knowledge of Texas probate and family law. Serving the families of Tarrant County for over 24 years, she can draft and produce a will that accurately reflects all of your wishes. From drafting the will to representing your interests in probate court, the Fort Worth estate planning attorneys at The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart provide integrity, professionalism, and 100% importance to every case and client. To speak with Wendy about creating or updating your will, call our Mansfield-Fort Worth law office today at (817) 842-2336.