Organization and planning can greatly reduce the time and expenses your loved ones will bear settling your estate after you die. One of the first steps you should take is to choose an executor, referred to in some states as personal representative.
Choosing the right executor can help to achieve an easier transition for your loved ones, alleviate a great deal of their stress and anxiety, and allow them to more easily grieve. Choose the wrong executor and it can cause more damage than just hurt feelings.
How to Choose an Executor
The executor you name is one of the most important choices you have to make when writing your last will & testament. This is because the person you name, will have a great deal of responsibility.
After your death, your executor must take an inventory of all of your possessions and determine the total value of your estate. He or she must also prepare your final income tax return, pay any taxes due, settle your debts, and, finally, distribute the remaining assets to your beneficiaries.
Your Colorado executor can be your spouse, domestic partner, sibling, adult child, or friend. They technically do not need to have any special training, however, the person you name as your executor should be responsible enough to navigate the legal, tax, and financial implications of your estate and ask for help from professionals like lawyers, accountants, and financial advisers when they feel overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that you can also name a professional as your executor. Financial institutions, accounting firms, notaries, and lawyers often provide this type of service for an hourly fee or a fee based on the value of your estate.
Colorado law requires the person you choose as your executor to be:
- 21 years of age or older;
- In good mental health; and
- Not legally incapacitated.
Unlike many states, Colorado does not prohibit those who have been convicted of a felony from acting as your executor.
Nor does the state prohibit individuals who reside outside the state from acting as an executor.
However, a Colorado probate court may, after a formal hearing, disqualify any potential executor found to be unsuitable.
Responsibilities of an Executor or Personal Representative
How can you ensure that you are choosing the best person to be your executor or personal representative? You can start by first considering the legal and fiduciary nature of the position.
In general, an executor is a fiduciary meaning that they must act in the best interest of your estate and its beneficiaries. As a fiduciary, your executor's duties will include:
- Gathering the assets of the estate
- Filing tax returns
- Paying the estate's taxes and other debts
- Settling business interests
- Filing with the probate court if necessary
- Distributing your assets to the intended beneficiaries
Be aware that your executor will also be required to sign court filings and other important documents throughout the probate process, which can last from a couple of months to a couple of years.
Therefore, you should consider choosing someone who is:
- Comfortable working with professionals, such as lawyers and accountants; and
- Not a procrastinator.
Here are some other considerations to keep in mind when deciding upon an executor for your estate:
- The person you choose should be someone you can trust to be honest and impartial. Your executor may have to mediate conflicts and must never give priority to his or her own interests or the interests of a particular beneficiary.
- Location might make a big difference as well. An executor who lives far away from the probate court may encounter difficulties in performing the various duties that will be required of them.
- Be aware that the person you choose as your executor may decline this responsibility. Therefore, you should naming a second person to take on this responsibility if your first choice declines or is otherwise unable to act as your executor.
- Finally, keep in mind that a regular review of your will is recommended to ensure that your choice of executor keeps up with changes in your estate and relationships.
A qualified and experienced Colorado estate planning attorney can offer you valuable guidance when writing your will, selecting an executor, and reviewing your will to ensure that your choice of executor is still the right choice. Contact our qualified and experienced Colorado estate planning attorneys through the contact link on our website.