Being appointed an executor of an estate reflects a level of trust, but the appointment can require a lot of time, especially for business owners. Executors should know about their role in estate administration. An executor carries out the decedent’s wishes as set forth in their will. Family members are usually appointed because they are most familiar with the decedent. This process usually takes up to one year to complete.
A person designated as an executor can elect not to serve. Wills usually list an alternative executor if the primary executor is unable or unwilling to serve. If all designated executors elect not to serve, the court can name a bank as the executor.
Familiarity with the decedent’s finances and assets makes performing this duty easier. A person who is unaware of the decedent’s financial situation, however, faces a daunting task. They may have to figure out investments, find family members who may be entitled to an inheritance, complete income taxes, resolve final debts and participate in probate litigation and other legal proceedings.
Business owners may have additional complications because of the competing estate and business responsibilities taking up their time. They should have additional personnel to help with the business while they perform executor duties and determine whether the business will suffer during the time they assume these responsibilities.
Executors are not normally responsible for the estate’s liabilities. However, Michigan law sets forth which creditors have priority for payment. Executors may be held financially liable if they do not follow these laws. Executors may also be sued if a beneficiary contests the will.
An attorney can help provide advice on an executor’s financial and legal responsibilities and ease some of their burdens. Lawyers can also draft important estate documents and provide guidance on selecting executors that are qualified to perform these duties.