What Does Your Estate Executor Need to Do Immediately After a Loved One Passes Away?

An estate executor, which might be called different terms in different states plays an important role in closing out the final affairs of a recently deceased family member.

There are a couple of aspects of this process that take place over the course of later weeks and months or even years but some steps need to be undertaken immediately. It is important that whoever you choose to appoint as your executor is aware of these responsibilities and capable of serving in this role. Some of the tasks that need to be handled immediately include:

  • Ordering death certificates.
  • Arranging a funeral.
  • Contacting an attorney.

The entire settlement process of a typical estate can last anywhere from 6 to 18 months. Those cases that have instances of probate disputes and beyond might take longer. It is also important to be mindful about yearend calendar issues as it relates to legal or tax related filings.

The executor’s primary job is to manage and wind down the estate of the deceased person, resolving any debts, reviewing the will, distributing remaining assets to the heirs and filing legal paperwork. This typically begins by arranging the funeral and taking an inventory to understand all of the assets inside the estate. This can be followed by sending notifications, resolving debts, filing taxes, making distributions and wrapping up the case.

Being an executor is a big responsibility. For more information about how to choose the right person to serve in this role, contact an estate planning lawyer in Virginia Beach, VA.



Managing Your Last Wishes If You Don’t Have Children

Being a single person who is approaching your older years with concerns about long term care is natural. It is very important to think about who will manage your last wishes if you do not have family members who are aware of your estate planning intentions and have documented these.

With only a few friends and no close relatives, it can be difficult to determine who will serve as the executor of your estate. An executor has to be someone you trust and there are a few different ways to narrow down this choice in your life to determine who you’ll use for this role.

With only a few friends and no close relatives, determine within the group that you do have, who you might be comfortable with passing on the responsibility of managing your plans when you’re gone. If you are not able to find someone in your personal network, it’s time to extend beyond this and consider possibilities such as using a professional or an institution for the job.

This removes some of the personal aspects that you might have hoped to have a person close to you who you trust to handle these issues, but many professionals and institutions have extensive experience in serving in this role.

You’ll want to set up a time to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer about this process and what to expect. An attorney might be able to assist you by serving as an executor of your estate but you should explore all of your options when it comes to outsourcing this responsibility to someone outside of your personal network.


Can My Executor Change My Will?

Your will is referred to as a “last will and testament” for a reason: so long as it’s legally valid, in the vast majority of cases, it cannot be changed by an executor after you pass away. Your will is your opportunity to share your plans and intentions so that they can be handled properly and quickly after you pass away.

Getting that “final say” is a big reason why most people do estate planning in the first place. Although your executor will be responsible for handling the terms of your will and managing assets that pass on to your beneficiaries through it, your will can only be handled and administered by the executor, not rewritten or updated per the executor’s wishes.

The executor does still play a critical role in the management of the estate, however. For example, this person must gather all of the assets and inventory to determine how many assets there are left over for beneficiaries in the first place. If there are substantial debts, this might mean that the amount passed on to heirs is less than the heirs expect.

Furthermore, if the will is not entirely clear, it falls to the executor to determine what the will means. This is a big reason why many personal representatives or executors end up hiring outside probate help in the form of an attorney to ensure that they handle these important responsibilities under the ethical and legal guidelines for estate administration.

Although your executor will not be someone who rewrites, tears up, or amends your will, this should still be an individual you trust and one in whom you’re willing to place your confidence. Discuss your needs with a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney today.



Should You Name an Independent Executor?

One important part of the process of creating a will for your estate is choosing who will serve in the role of executor. The executor has to play many important roles in the management of your estate, including all the paperwork.

If you don’t anticipate any major problems with your estate or arguments within the family, a family member can be named as an executor. While your surviving spouse might have the most inside information about your plan, that person can easily be too overwhelmed with grief to deal with everything that a daughter or son might be able to handle on their own.

Since there is the possibility for conflict with various family members, you might choose to name an independent party as the executor of the estate. An independent trust company or a bank trust department can handle all of these aspects of your estate.

A big reason for selecting an independent party is the desire not to put your loved one into the position of taking on the fiduciary responsibility. An executor has to pay due estate taxes, file an estate tax return, and then distribute any remaining assets to the living heirs.

In the event that the tax return gets audited into the future and it’s determined that more money is due, that estate executor is formally responsible for that. It’s unlikely that some heirs would be willing or able to give back their portion of assets to cover a remaining balance with the estate tax return or audit. The liability gets shifted away from a family member when you install an independent party into this role.

Your Virginia estate planning lawyer can give you more information about how the process works.

Can Someone Be Removed as an Executor in Virginia?

An executor is the person associated with the administration of a Virginia estate of a deceased individual during probate. The court can appoint this person named in the will as executor.

In some cases, however, this person is also named as a beneficiary in the will and is an heir to the estate property. In the event that you or another family member and you are concerned that an executor could be abusing their authority, Virginia law does enable you to petition for his removal. It is very important to understand this process as any type of heir in a Virginia estate because this can significantly slow down the process of estate administration.

Good cause for removing a Virginia estate executor can include bankruptcy, death, resignation, self-dealing, failing to perform duties, fraud, gross negligence, and more. If an executor is removed from an estate, Virginia law requires that a successor executor be appointed by the court to replace that person, so long as the successor executor is qualified.

In order for a successor executor to be qualified to serve in the probate of an estate, this person must be a legal adult, mentally competent, and consent to the appointment.

As a person putting together your Virginia estate planning documents, it is important to understand how the selection of your initial executor and successor executor could impact the administration of your estate after you pass away. Schedule a consultation with an experienced Virginia attorney to discuss who should serve in the role of an executor and successor executor.


What Is Required to Open an Estate in Virginia?

Regardless of the size of your Virginia estate, it is critical to establish a plan that can help prepare for the future. Having a necessary framework of your Virginia estate plan in place enables your loved ones to have a comprehensive guide to follow. To formally open a Virginia estate, an individual must first make an appointment with a clerk of the court for the city or county in which the individual owned property or resided at the time of death.

Certain items could be helpful to bring during this initial meeting, including a copy of the last will and testament, a driver’s license, the necessary probate fee, and any last known addresses. The clerk will be helpful in assisting with opening the estate. If the individual is appointed to help manage the estate, that person will receive letters testamentary and records associated with estate administration.

The executor or the administrator who is seeking an appointment in a Virginia estate must be prepared to recognize his or her role. Usually, the person who wants appointment is named as the executor in the last will and testament, but in the event that the executor named in the Virginia estate is unwilling or unable to serve, it could be someone else who is interested in seeking appointment within the state of Virginia. Schedule a consultation with your estate planning lawyer today to discuss how this might affect you.




Tips for Choosing an Executor

An executor is the individual who has the legal responsibility to ensure that your wishes for your estate plan are carried out as well as any taxes, debts and bills are paid. You need to identify someone who is competent as well as trustworthy and someone who can recognize that they might not have all of the answers to the puzzle and will need to ask for outside help from a professional.ThinkstockPhotos-501223220
The key to the executor selection process is choosing someone that you could trust to get the job done. It is a job rather than necessarily a reward to be chosen as an executor. Don’t make the mistake of thinking too far ahead into the future and trying to determine who might be the right person to serve as the executor two or three decades later. You can always change your executor after naming one initially, as this just requires updating your will, but you need to choose someone who is the right choice now because you can never anticipate what may happen to you.
If you are not comfortable with coming up with anyone in your friend or family circle who can handle the executor duties for you, consider appointing someone who can serve in this role as a professional. This can help to minimize family arguments and to ensure that you have the peace of mind provided by an attorney, trust, company or a bank. Usually these individuals will charge a percentage of the estate’s assets. You need to have a consultation with a professional in this case to determine whether or not they are interested in taking on this role.
Talk to your Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer to learn more about what you need to do to protect yourself and your future.

Tips for Choosing an Executor

When approaching the estate planning process, your executor is the individual who has the legal responsibility to ensure that all of your estate planning intentions and plans are carried out to pay out any debts, bills and taxes, and to ensure that your assets are transferred properly. When identifying the right person to choose as an executor, you want to look for someone who is competent and trustworthy to carry through your wishes.
ThinkstockPhotos-99780257This person should also be aware of your intentions to name them as an executor so that they can accept. People often default to choosing a person in their family as their executor. However, it is important for that individual to understand all of their responsibility associated with this role as well as what will happen if this person were to suddenly pass away before you.
Trust and bank companies may also allow you to use them as your executor and attorneys can also serve in this role. Selecting someone who is geographically close to where you live may be beneficial. It is very important to determine the right person to serve as your executor.
If you’re not sure where to start, schedule a meeting with a Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer to get your questions answered.

Duties of Executors More Complex In Digital World

The roles of executors and their agents, which had remained largely unchanged for decades, are, like everything in this digital age, undergoing a transformation.

Financial data analyzing

Financial data analyzing

“Being named an executor by a family member or close friend is an expression of the highest regard and trust, and it is generally regarded as an honor,” according to a recent article on the website ustrust.com
But, like many honors, it brings with it significant responsibilities and, often, unexpected challenges. “Serving as executor is one of the most complex financial roles anyone can undertake. The responsibilities are extensive and often highly technical, and the commitment of time and energy can be daunting. The role demands custody, investment, fiduciary, administrative, accounting, legal and tax expertise and capabilities. Emerging issues related to digital property, not to mention increasingly intricate family structures, add challenges for the executor.”
The site goes on to point out that at one time the search for important documents relating to an estate was largely confined to a few filing cabinets in the home of the deceased or perhaps a safety deposit box at the individual’s bank.
“But today, important papers may have been sent and stored solely in digital forms, which can muddle the search for important information,” according to the piece by Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive for U.S. Trust, and Colin Korzec, U.S. Trust national executive for estate settlement. “And, even if all of these digital locations are known, does the executor have current usernames and passwords to access the information?
“There are also potential legal issues, since most state laws are unclear as to an executor’s ability to gain access to a deceased individual’s digital property. User agreements for online services tend to be equally murky. What about access to email accounts? Can an executor access these accounts without violating the provider’s terms of use agreement? All this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to grappling with digital assets as an executor.”
One solution for dealing with a particularly difficult and complicated situation, the authors suggest, is to find a co-executor so that the potentially cumbersome tasks can be shared out.

Choice Of Executor Vital Part Of Estate Planning

Making a will and keeping it up to date are only part of what people need to do to ensure their wishes are properly carried out after death.

Wife showing where to sign to her husband

Wife showing where to sign to her husband

Selecting the right executor for an estate is also vital.
That message was brought home in a recent Forbes magazine article, which the writer referred to as a “tale of caution.”
“The cast includes a 73-year-old high-school-educated homemaker named executor of a nonagenarian cousin’s will, an attorney who was battling brain cancer, seven distant relatives and three charities all due a piece of a $12.5 million estate, and an Internal Revenue Service bill for $1.2 million in penalties and interest for failure to file an estate tax return and pay taxes on time levied on the estate,” according to the story. “In an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit filed in February, the executor is trying to recover the $1.2 million. The question at hand: was her failure to file the return and pay the tax on time due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect?”
“What’s the lesson? Even if you have an expert, you have to pay attention to the matters at hand,” the article quotes Jon Hoffheimer, a lawyer who the court appointed to administer the estate as a co-fiduciary with the executor in question after it became clear that she wasn’t up to the task.
Most people, the story goes on to point out, choose a friend or relative as executor, while relying on an estate attorney to ensure a proper will is on file.
“But it’s the executor who bears the ultimate responsibility to make sure it’s done, on time,” the article notes.
The best approach, professionals in the story advise, is to clearly list all the duties of an executor under the terms of the will and have that person sign the document long before these actions have to be taken.