A loved one is drafting their estate plan and has asked you to be the executor of their estate. You’re likely flattered by the request and they’re trusting you with a big responsibility. Many people automatically agree to do it, in part because they don’t want to give any real thought to their loved one passing away. However, that day will come, sooner or later. You owe it to that person to give some serious thought to the request before giving your commitment — or declining.
Therefore, it’s essential to know what the role involves and whether you’re able and willing to take it on. The time commitment is one of the first considerations. While you likely won’t have to take a leave of absence from your job to carry out your tasks, they will take up some of your time. You’ll need to deal with beneficiaries, make court appearances and handle the maintenance and eventual sale or disbursal of any real estate. If you don’t live near the deceased’s estate, this will require some travel.
Another key question is whether you’re able and willing to deal with family members and other beneficiaries who may not be happy with what they have (or haven’t) inherited. If you’re a family member, this can be particularly difficult. You may be accused of favoritism. Are you prepared to deal with that?
If you’re not a family member, that could make the job easier. A bit of distance from the family can help. Heirs and beneficiaries may be more likely to accept your decisions if you don’t have a vested interest.
It’s important to know that you aren’t legally obligated to accept the role of executor when the time comes. However, it’s only fair to the person who asked you that you don’t accept it if you’re not sure you can handle it. If you accept the responsibility and things later change (for example, you move across the country or develop a serious health issue), let the person know that you’d prefer they choose someone else (or at least have an alternate named).
If you have questions before you make a decision, you may ask to talk to your loved one’s estate planning attorney or consult with your own attorney. Our website provides information on the Arizona probate process and other aspects of estate planning and administration.