As part of creating a will in California, you designate an executor, the person you want to carry out the provisions of your will after you die. You can choose anyone you want to serve in this capacity, but you should carefully consider all of the things that (s)he will need to do to take your estate through probate. You, therefore, should choose someone who is not only willing to do this work but also is capable of doing it. In other words, you should pick someone who is trustworthy, stable and financially responsible.
Your executor will have many duties, including the following:
- Collecting all your estate assets
- Inventorying and valuing the assets
- Protecting and managing the assets during probate
- Paying valid claims against your estate, such as unpaid bills and taxes
- Defending your estate against invalid claims or will challenges
- Preparing a final accounting and distributing the assets to your designated beneficiaries
Depending on the size and complexity of your estate, your executor may need to manage your investments, oversee your business, file your tax returns, sell some assets to have sufficient money to pay your debts and perform other highly sophisticated duties. Many executors hire an attorney, CPA, financial planner or other professional to guide them through the probate process and prepare the numerous financial documents that they must file with the court. Your estate pays the fees charged by these professionals.
Attorney as executor
If you believe that no one in your family or circle of friends has the financial skills or savvy to competently and properly act as your executor, you may wish to consider designating your attorney. Not only does (s)he have the necessary qualifications to probate your estate, but (s)he also is a disinterested party who has no personal interest in your estate since (s)he is not a named beneficiary.
Thus your attorney has no conflict of interest with your beneficiaries. Nor will they favor one of them over the others. This notion is particularly important if you have children or family members who do not get along with each other. If you appoint one of them as your executor, the others may feel slighted or disadvantaged, especially considering that your executor receives a fee for probating your estate.
Choosing your executor is almost as important as creating your will itself. The choice you make will significantly impact your family and other beneficiaries after your death.