We’ve talked before about not making a loved one your executor. I recently read an article titled, “2 Big Reasons Not to Make a Loved One the Executor of Your Estate.” Here, we’ll add our own perspective for why it’s not a great idea.
Being executor can be emotionally difficult
It is a duty that begins almost immediately after the death of your loved one. You are grieving the loss while facing a list of daunting tasks. Even normal probate is a lot of work and can be tough while grieving.
In a somewhat difficult probate, you navigate the decedent’s family and friend relationships. If you are also family and friends with these people, it can be awkward. They will continually ask you when they will receive their inheritance. Some will complain that they get less money than others. You may not get far into the probate process before this happens.
It goes without saying that a difficult and dramatic probate is even more burdensome and draining.
Being executor is long and time consuming
If you think probate lasts a few weeks or months, think again! Probate lasts many months and sometimes many years. Over the past few years, we’ve seen probate take longer than ever.
Many of the executor’s tasks must be done in person. This means walking into a bank and taking care of the assets face-to-face. It is very inconvenient, especially if the executor works and has a busy home life. The executor cannot delegate responsibilities by power of attorney. An attorney can help with many tasks, but not all.
Things an executor needs to know
The executor should have an understanding of legal issues and risks of being executor! An executor is personally liable for mistakes they make during the probate process. This includes asset valuations, purchases, sales, tax complications, failure to pay debts, and more. The executor is liable out of their own pocket. Creditors can come after the executor’s bank and brokerage accounts and their home.
There are a lot of tax issues when administering an estate. The taxing authorities know that this is their last chance to wring every last cent out of that social security number. The IRS will go through the assets with a fine tooth comb. What if your executor doesn’t have the skills to manage assets? The executor should be able to manage real estate, financial assets, and unique assets such as small businesses, collectibles, and bitcoin. If your executor doesn’t have an existing skill set for managing assets, don’t count on them learning when you pass. It’s too much to ask someone to learn how to manage assets while they are mourning.
Many people think things will be fine as long as their executor hires the right people (lawyer, CPA, etc.). It is important to have a good team during probate, but it is not enough. Each of these professionals have their own incentives and opinions. And remember, none of them are personally liable. Just because you hire a lawyer to help with probate doesn’t mean you will get the best advice. Even if your CPA is great at doing your income tax returns doesn’t mean they know how to do tax returns for an estate. You need professionals who have a solid understanding of probate.
The article we reviewed also recommends working with experienced professionals. People are starting to hear more about professional executors. Whereas, even 5 years ago, it wasn’t quite as popular. If you want to learn more, check out my book, “How to Hire an Executor.” When people understand what professional executors do, they like the option. They are thrilled to have that burden lifted off of their loved ones.
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