Organizing your estate is an important responsibility, one that demands your full attention. You need to plan it carefully and involve the people you trust the most to ensure it is carried out according to your wishes. Choosing who will assume the essential role of executor can be difficult, but there are several criteria you can refer to that should make the decision easier. Before asking anyone to be the executor of your estate, consider whether that individual satisfies the following four qualifications.
Being named executor of an estate can be viewed as an honor. Given the importance of personal assets and property, it takes no small amount of trust to afford the powers of executorship to one or more people.
American statesman Benjamin Franklin once mused, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Although these enduring words can apply to many situations in life, they are particularly relevant to the estate administration and probate process. Personal representatives, or executors, may have the best intentions at heart, but an honest mistake can have unintended and damaging consequences.
Being named as the executor of an estate requires trust. The person who creates an estate plan puts a lot of faith and confidence in this individual to distribute assets within the bounds of the prepared documents and state law.
Making the decision about who will be in charge of administering an estate can be tricky. Not only is it important to select an executor (or executors) who can be trusted, but it's also critical to make sure the designation is valid and the named individuals are up to the job.
Many people go their entire lives without ever having to be involved in the probate process. Nowadays people are living longer, which often has the unintended result of many people using up all of their assets prior to death, with nothing much of value to pass on to their heirs. And, as anyone familiar with previous posts here knows by now, there are still many people who don't have an estate plan, even though they probably should. All of these factors, combined with the relatively infrequent contact most people have with a probate court, can result in a bit of mystery surrounding probate, and especially probate administration.
It is quite understandable if Michigan residents have a lot of questions about the probate process. After all, anyone familiar with previous posts here knows that topics can range from the details of trusts to powers of attorney to long-term planning. With so many factors to consider during the planning stage, there is every reason for an estate planner to think about what will occur when the actual estate administration process begins.
Most of our Michigan readers probably know that estate plans are very specific to each individual's situation. For instance, a Michigan resident of even modest means will need a will to designate property distribution and appoint guardians for minor children. However, someone with substantial assets may need more than a will. An estate plan for a wealthy person could include a number of different trusts, designed with separate and specific goals in mind. Every person's estate plan will differ depending on who they want to receive their assets and by what means they would like to achieve their goals. A recent article, however, focused on one type of person in particular - business owners.
If our Michigan readers have a will, they are off to a good start with their estate plans. A simple will covers many basic estate planning needs, with many people simply leaving everything to their spouse and vice versa. Couples with minor children have an extra step to take, naming another person or couple to care for their children in the unfortunate event of the spouses' simultaneous death. Many of the steps taken in drafting a will go a long ways toward expediting the probate process, but are there other steps that can help? According to a recent article, there is a sort of "checklist" individuals and couples should look to when beginning to lay out their estate plan.
For many Americans, and perhaps some of our Michigan readers, the probate process can be a bit of a mystery. Of course most people know that they should at least have a will, even those people who don't have one. The problem, however, is that many people simply do not know what will actually take place when the time to use that will comes around. Although anyone planning out and executing an estate plan usually does so with the express goal of avoiding probate litigation, that is not always possible. Estate administration can be tricky at times, but as long as the estate planning documents are clear and the executor is competent, the whole process will generally go much more smoothly.