“It’s not that easy being green,” Kermit of Sesame Street sings. Another thing that’s far from easy, as many who’ve inherited that responsibility can attest, is being an estate executor. Many will be called to serve, as Sharon Waters observes in the AARP Bulletin:
“The wave of people prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic to write their wills is creating yet another wave in estate planning – all the people being asked to one day put those wills into effect.”
Should you decide to accept the role, Waters explains, the mission is going to entail:
- honoring the deceased
- serving the needs of heirs
- doing the job as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible
- safeguarding property
The hardest parts, she cautions, will probably involve:
- never-ending paperwork
- distributing emotion-laden personal items of the deceased
- conflicts among heirs (some who may resent the authority you’ve been given)
When administering an estate, there are many moving parts, and it’s easy for details to slip through the cracks, our team at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates realizes. Often an executor named in a will – or the person appointed by the court if no one has been named – is the surviving spouse or another family member. During a period of grieving and stress, that individual must gather property, distribute assets, and pay any remaining debts. It’s enormously reassuring to have an experienced legal team handle those duties our clients tell us.
Does naming an executor avoid probate?
Naming an executor does not avoid probate. “Probate” is a term for the legal process of settling the affairs of a person who has died. In Indiana, a probate estate, and the formal appointment of an executor, is required if the individual died with assets in his or her individual name without designated beneficiaries which exceed $50,000 in value. If that individual has named an executor, the named executor would file papers in the local probate court to activate his or her authority to collect assets and make distribution of the decedent’s estate; if no executor was named, the court appoints one.
Planning during life to avoid probate costs and delays involves making clear who you want to own each of your assets after your death. You can accomplish this by:
- Putting beneficiary designations on assets like life insurance, annuities, and retirement accounts
- Transferring assets to a living trust
- Owning property in joint name
- Designating POD (payable-on-death) or TOD (transfer-on-death) designations on assets
While avoiding probate may seem like an excellent goal, it can have its drawbacks as well. If all assets pass by title or beneficiary designation to named recipients, there will be no funds available to pay final expenses and funeral charges nor a point person to handle the decedent’s final affairs. It is important to understand the types of assets owned by the individual, family dynamics, and the goals of the individual when determining the best mechanism for passing assets at death.It may not be easy being green, but with careful planning during life, you have the power to make the burden of being an estate executor a lot easier for those you leave behind!
– by Rebecca W. Geyer