Estate planning can feel like a grim task, but to protect your family and your estate after your passing, you should consider creating a will. Part of the process includes appointing an executor who will manage your estate.
Learn about the role of an executor, who can be tapped to fulfill this role, and how to make the process as smooth as possible.
What is an Executor?
In Georgia, executors are also known as personal representatives appointed to manage the estate of someone who is deceased. This appointment could be something they’ve discussed before the fact, or the announcement may come as a surprise.
There are a few people or entities who can serve as a personal representative. In the state of Georgia, an executor must be someone who is at least 18 years old and a resident of Georgia. A financial institution or a trust company could also be named as the executor of someone’s estate.
An Executor’s Functions
An executor’s role extends beyond simply reading the last will and testament to their family. They are tasked with identifying and distributing property properly.
Gather the Estate’s Assets
This is a crucial first step to distributing an estate’s property. An executor will need to collect, inventory, and take possession of the assets belonging to an estate. The method of collecting assets will depend on the assets themselves.
For instance, taking possession of a house and any household goods could be as simple as having the keys to the home and securing it. An executor may also need to collect mail or passwords for accounts connected to the estate.
Handle an Estate’s Debts
After an executor has categorized an estate’s property and calculated its value, they will be responsible for working on the debts connected to the estate, according to Georgia Code § 53-7-7. Those debts could include funerary or burial expenses, taxes due from the estate, or support payments to the family.
An executor must also alert any creditors of the decedent’s passing within 60 days of their death.
File All Tax Returns
In Georgia, the personal representative will also file the estate’s final tax returns and pay the balance on any taxes. The executor can be held liable for failing to complete any taxes for the estate.
Distribute the Estate’s Property
The purpose most executors are known for is distributing the estate’s property according to the last will and testament. This can happen once all the debts, taxes, and administration costs are paid. The executor will distribute the property listed in the will to the respective beneficiaries named in the will. The beneficiaries can dispute this distribution, but the executor can use the estate’s assets to pay for an attorney’s services in the matter.
File Probate Paperwork
Executors must file the appropriate paperwork with the probate court within set deadlines. Personal representatives are responsible for filing an inventory of the estate’s assets and a final accounting of how the assets were distributed.
Close the Estate
This is the final step for the personal representative working on someone’s estate. They will file a petition for discharge with the probate court. This petition states that all assets have been distributed and any disagreements have been settled. If the court approves the petition and accepts the outcome, it will release the executor from further responsibilities.
Why Does Selecting an Executor Matter so Much?
As the person fulfilling a fiduciary role for an estate, executors carry a hefty responsibility. They are tasked with following the last will and testament of the deceased. They are required to follow Georgia’s probate laws and complete their role as fairly as possible.
If a personal representative does not follow the law or does not comply with their duty, they could be susceptible to a liability claim from heirs or interested parties.
Executors must follow the law as they fulfill their duties. If they aren’t careful, they could cause more distress for a grieving family. The wrong executor could also tie up the estate in more legal proceedings, so choosing the right executor is necessary for everyone’s peace of mind.
Are There Restrictions on Who Can Be an Executor?
There are a few exceptions on who can qualify as a personal representative. Anyone younger than 18 cannot be an executor. Anyone deemed “incapacitated” by the court cannot be an executor either. If the court decides someone cannot manage their own affairs, they will not be allowed to handle someone else’s affairs.
Georgia does allow certain institutions or entities to serve as executors, but only if they’re recognized as fiduciary bodies in the state. Someone who is not a Georgia resident could be named as an executor, but they must be able to perform their duties as necessary.
Finding a Good Fit for a Personal Representative in Georgia
Finding someone you trust to handle your affairs once you’ve passed away is not a bright prospect. You’re asking a lot of this person; they’re looking over your estate and could be responsible for it for weeks, months, or longer in some cases.
Although your personal representative does not need to be an attorney, it’s a good idea to work with an estate planning lawyer to ensure your assets and your family are protected. They can advise you on your options and guide you through the executor selection process. Family members are often chosen but may have a difficult working through the intricacies of probate law. An estate planning lawyer can help you understand an executor’s role and handle your estate.
Trust a Cobb County Estate Planning Lawyer with Your Needs
Finding an executor is a critical part of the estate planning process. The attorneys at The Gentry Law Firm are prepared to help you work through your needs. We are dedicated to helping the people of Georgia create a plan to protect their assets.