E303 How to Choose an Executor Who Will Accept
A common question from our Solo Agers is: does my executor have to accept?
Because our Solo Agers spend a LOT of time carefully choosing who will be their executor, it would be terrible if that carefully chosen one decides to not even serve! Our Solo Agers understand the significance about who they choose, and they take it very seriously. We touched on this in Episode 221, but we’ll dig a little deeper into the topic here.
It’s just a nominated executor
The first thing to know is that this is just a nomination for an executor. When Solo Agers pick who they want as their executor, they should remember that it is not a contractually bound role. That chosen executor is not required to serve; he or she is just nominated for that position.
It is up to them if they decide to serve at the time of your passing. There are many reasons why the nominated executor may not accept. They may have new health problems, or maybe they moved. In fact, many nominated executors don’t even know they were appointed until the time comes.
Is being executor too much work?
There are some things to consider to be sure your executor will actually accept. Being an executor is difficult, and probate is a lengthy process. We discussed this in Episode 184, touching on the hours, months, and expertise required to fulfill the executor’s duties. It almost ends up being a full-time job! Having this job hanging over the executor’s head can easily stress them out.
It is important to choose someone who is well-suited, meaning they have the legal or tax background and especially the time to devote to the task. Or you can just hire a professional executor. We have the staff and systems set up to deal with the challenges of executorship.
Unfortunately, your nominated executor may agree to serve but won’t realize it’s too much work until they’ve already accepted. It is important that you do your research ahead of time so that you know what exactly you’re asking of them.
Is there enough compensation for your executor?
An executor may decline if it’s too much work for too little pay. In New York, executor compensation is set by state law, and it is a percentage of probate estate (meaning the assets that go through the executor’s control). But it does NOT include non-probate assets such as accounts with beneficiary designations.
If your estate includes creditors or tax issues, but there are only a few probate accounts to deal with the issues, your executor may decline to serve. Otherwise, your executor will be paid very little for dealing with all the headaches. No one wants to deal with that kind of mess and barely get paid.
A solution may be to write a minimum executor compensation in your will, so that even if there are not enough probate assets, your executor could still be reasonably compensated. However, the statute is already set, so the executor may have to fight to get paid properly.
Another solution is to make sure you have enough probate accounts by removing beneficiary designations from some of your accounts. However, your executor may not be able to accurately evaluate how much work is involved vs. how much compensation they will receive. Just because an estate is large does not necessarily mean that there are enough funds available to pay the executor properly.
If it turns out to be too much work for too little pay, they may end up with unhappy memories of you. If you think your estate might present the issues discussed above, give us a call to talk through the pros and cons of hiring a professional executor or not.
Solo Ager Book
Below is the link to my book, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan,” which addresses the challenges of probate and executorship. And, as always, keep sending in your questions!
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