The process of estate administration is sometimes overlooked by people who are just trying to take care of the basics. You certainly have to use legal documents to state your wishes in writing in a legally binding manner, but there is also a human element that is extremely important.
When you create these documents, you are leaving instructions, but who is going to follow these instructions? You can carefully select the person or entity that will handle the estate administration tasks when you are devising your estate plan.
The Estate Executor
If you use a last will to express your final wishes regarding the way that you want your assets to be transferred after you are gone, the person who will handle the business of the estate is called the executor or executrix. The role is the same, but an executor is a male who acts as an estate administrator, and an executrix is a female.
You have to understand the fact that the role of the executor is not just a ceremonial role that you bestow upon someone that you love and respect. There are legal and business matters that must be handled after your passing to bring your wishes to fruition.
The first order of business for the executor will be to admit the will to probate. Here in New York where we practice law, probate matters are handled by the Surrogate’s Court. The court determines the validity of the will, and it supervises the administration of the estate.
Creditors must be notified during the probate process, and the assets that comprise the estate must be identified and inventoried. They must subsequently be prepared for distribution to the heirs, and this can involve property appraisals and liquidation of property.
The probate process can take time, and it requires business acumen. You should keep these factors in mind when you are choosing an executor or executrix.
If you would like to obtain more detailed information about the probate process and the role of the executor, click this link to download our free special report on the subject: Probate and the Role of the Executor.
If you were to use a revocable living trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan instead of a last will, the trust administrator would be the trustee. The role of the trustee is similar to the role of the executor, but there are some differences.
With a living trust, you may instruct the trustee to manage the resources and distribute limited assets over an extended period of time. Investment expertise would be important. It is possible to use a professional fiduciary to act as a trustee, such as a trust company or the trust section of a bank.
We also have an in-depth report on the trust administration process that you can access free of charge. Visit this page if you would like to learn more: Trust Administration.