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What to expect as the executor of an estate

Whether it came as a shock or you were expecting the conversation, the recent request of a loved one for you to be the executor of his or her estate may have left you with mixed emotions. Certainly, of all the people your loved one knows, to have chosen you speaks volumes about your integrity and the level of trust your family places in you.

On the other side of the coin, you suspect the job of estate executor is not going to be easy, and you aren't sure what to expect when the sad day comes and your loved one passes. Since your loved one shared his or her wishes with you ahead of time, you have a chance to find the answers to your questions and decide if you really want to handle the responsibilities and headaches that accompany the honor.

How free is your calendar?

The first thing many people discover about handling the estate of a loved one is that it is time-consuming. In fact, if you have difficulty finding a minute for yourself or if your family complains that they never see you because of your work obligations, you may want to consider this when accepting the role of executor. You will have documents to complete, sign and have notarized. If your loved one's attorney or beneficiaries live far away, you may have to travel to obtain signatures.

In addition to the paperwork, you may have some physical work to do in order to gather and secure the estate's assets. It will be your responsibility to maintain and protect the estate during probate, which may last up to a year. Finally, you may be responsible for tracking down any missing assets or, for that matter, any missing heirs.

How tough is your skin?

Dealing with heirs and co-executors can be brutal. You are fortunate if your loved one named only gentle, gracious people to inherit his or her estate, but don't bank on it. It is not uncommon for beneficiaries to dispute the way in which you handle the estate or even try to take assets they feel they are entitled to despite the instructions your loved one left for you. If you are working with a co-executor, you will deal with more paperwork and potentially more travel if he or she lives out of town.

Handling the final expenses of your loved one is a delicate balancing act. There are certain debts and bills that get priority over others. For example, taxes supersede payment to any creditors or beneficiaries. The estate's heirs may disapprove of their inheritance going to the government, and you may face the brunt of their discontent.

How much does it mean to you?

In the final analysis, you must decide if you will take on the work of administering your loved one's estate. Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone. You can always seek the assistance of a California attorney who is devoted to helping people through the maze of probate. You may find that the help of a legal professional will dispel many of the concerns you have about accepting the honor your loved one extended to you.

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