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Appointing an executor for an estate

When Washington residents execute a will, they must designate an executor to administer their estate after they're gone. The executor manages the affairs of the estate until it can be distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries, according to the will. The executor has a lot of power over the estate's assets, and courts will hold them to a high standard of integrity.

Many people agonize over other parts of their will, such as who to appoint as guardian for their kids, or who gets the antique furniture, but don't spend a lot of time thinking about who should be executor. This can lead to problems down the road.

Serving as executor is often a time-consuming and thankless job, and some people may not want to put their loved ones through it. If one neglects to appoint an executor, the court will appoint someone. Still, many people who work in estate planning advise that it's important to appoint a loved one to serve as executor, because a compassionate loved one is trustworthy and will not mind doing one last favor for the deceased.

To return that favor in advance, the person executing the will should get his or her affairs in good order. It's also important to provide detailed instructions on the distribution of the estate. Executors often know what to do with bank accounts and other financial assets, but are caught off guard when the beneficiaries fight over items of personal property that have sentimental value. Providing for the distribution of these items in one's will can help reduce the chance of this type of conflict.

There are many things for Washington residents to consider when they begin their estate planning. Appointing an executor may not be the first thing on anyone's mind, but a legal professional can help one to understand an executor's importance and help one determine who would best fill that role.

Source: Daily Finance, "Who Should You Ask to be Executor of Your Estate?" Michele Lerner, Oct. 13, 2013

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