Q. My sister made me the executor of her will but I don’t really want the job. She said I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Am I? — Sister
A. The executor’s role is very important and carries a great deal of responsibility.
Think about why your sister has chosen you.
Your sister may look to you as the person in her life who is most qualified to handle the various tasks and responsibilities associated with the role, said Frederick Schoenbrodt, an estate planning attorney with Bressler Amery Ross in Florham Park.
He said she may not feel that she has a qualified “second choice” to serve as her executor.
“I would encourage you to think carefully before telling her that you won’t serve since confidence in the person selected as executor is an important aspect of achieving the peace of mind that should result from a well-planned estate,” Schoenbrodt said.
He said the day-to-day responsibilities of an executor are often shared or delegated to a law firm retained by the executor to assist in the administration of the estate. The lawyer, paralegal and other administrative staff can handle many of the more time-consuming and onerous tasks associated with settling an estate, but the executor will still be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the administration, including marshaling and valuing assets, paying debts and expenses, filing tax returns and distributing assets in accordance with the will.
If the estate has difficult issues to resolve like insolvency, unpaid tax liabilities or contaminated real property, the executor’s job will be difficult, Schoenbrodt said. On the other hand, if the estate is fairly simple in its assets and issues, then the executor’s job may be very simple.
“You are free to decline or renounce your appointment after your sister’s death, so you don’t have to make a decision today,” Schoenbrodt said. “Since you are engaged in the conversation with your sister now, you might recommend to her that she name a suitable alternate executor in her will since you will evaluate your willingness to serve based on the circumstances that exist at her death.”
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Image: Christopher Futcher