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The Tough Decisions of Managing Your Estate

June 27, 2013

Tips for selecting an executor and a guardian for your children.

Selecting an executor, personal representative or trustee are some of the hardest decisions you will have to make when managing your estate. Regardless of whether your estate plan includes a will or a living trust (or both), you need to select someone to administer the disposition of your estate- known as an executor or personal representative and, if you have a living trustee, a trustee.

The responsibilities of an executor or personal representative include:

  • Administering your estate and distributing the assets to your beneficiaries
  • Making certain tax decisions
  • Paying any estate debts or expenses
  • Ensuring all life insurance and retirement plan benefits are received
  • Filing the necessary tax returns and paying the appropriate federal and state taxes

A trustee’s duties are similar, but related only to assets in the trust. Moreover, in the event you become incapacitated the trustee would step into your shoes to manage the affairs of the trust. An individual (most likely a family member, a friend or a professional advisor) or an institution (such as a bank or trust company) can serve as executor, personal representative or trustee. Many people name both an individual and an institution to leverage their collective expertise. Of course, naming a spouse, child or other relative to act as executor or personal representative is common, and he or she certainly can engage professional assistance.

It is always smart to make sure that the executor, personal representative or trustee is willing to serve. This is not an easy job and not everyone will want or accept the responsibility. Even if you choose an individual rather than a professional, consider paying a reasonable fee for the services. Many wills and trusts provide for an alternate executor, personal representative or trustee in case your first choice is not available, unable or unwilling to serve as executor.

If you have children, selecting a guardian for them is probably the most important element of your estate plan. When deciding who to elect as guardian you should consider the following questions:

  • Will the guardian be capable of managing your children’s assets?
  • Will the guardian be financially strong?
  • Will the guardian’s home accommodate your children?

All of these points are critical to prepare for in the event that you are not around to care for your children and the possibility of naming separate guardians for your children and their assets is also an option if you prefer.

Some additional things you should be aware of that are most commonly involved in estate settlement are:

  • The transfer of property and other basic assets such as assets stored in a safe deposit boxes and savings bonds
  • Social security benefits
  • Employee benefits
  • Insurance claims

As you can see selecting an executor, personal representative or trustee is a difficult decision for both parties involved. Selecting someone to administer the disposition of your estate is an important responsibility.

If you have any questions about your estate plan or would like to talk with a qualified estate planning advisor please contact any member of the KLR Private Client Services Group.

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