One of the most difficult decisions people face when preparing their Will is who to appoint as executor/executrix – the person responsible for carrying out your wishes and administering your estate upon your death. In Maryland, the executor is known as the Personal Representative.
The job can be simple or complicated. Michael Jackson’s executors, for example, have had to deal with huge family dramas as well as an estate near bankruptcy. Fortunately for the King of Pop’s beneficiaries (his mother and children), the executors have managed to pay off Michael’s debts and have made deals for the estate that are now generating millions of dollars in revenue.
Most estates, however, require far less from their Personal Representative(s). In general, a Personal Representative’s responsibilities include:
Filing your Will with the court and initiating probate proceedings (if required)
Rerouting your mail, canceling credit cards, and notifying your bank, Social Security, Medicare and other governmental agencies of your death
Setting up a bank account for your estate to handle monies received after your death and expenses that need to be paid such as outstanding debts, utility bills, mortgage payments and insurance on your property
Identifying all of your assets and safeguarding them until it is time to distribute them to your beneficiaries. This includes protecting your personal effects from damage and theft
Filing your final income tax returns and estate tax returns (if necessary)
Following the provisions of your will to determine who will inherit your property, and making sure that all distributions are carried out in accordance with your wishes
File a final report and an accounting of the estate, which must be provided to the beneficiaries and the court
Who should you chose to handle these responsibilities? The choice is yours and yours alone. It could be a relative or a close friend who is particularly well organized and responsible. In most cases, a non-professional executor will require the assistance of a wills, estates and trusts lawyer. If you anticipate a Will contest or conflicts between beneficiaries, you might prefer instead to name an attorney as Personal Representative to handle all aspects of your estate administration from start to finish. The most important thing to consider in making your choice is to find someone who is stable, financially responsible and who will fulfill their fiduciary duty to act with good faith, honesty and diligence.