“Drafting a last will and testament can help to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. You can also use your will to name a legal guardian for minor children or choose an executor for your estate.”
The executor of a last will and testament is the person responsible for carrying out the instructions in a will. Giving a person this role is giving them the authority to handle many tasks concerning an estate, as explained in the article “How to Change the Executor of a Will” from KAKE.com. The person you name can be anyone you wish, from a spouse to a trusted family member, an adult child or even an estate planning attorney. Minor children may not serve as executors and some states do not permit convicted felons from serving as executors.
What does the executor do?
A beneficiary, a person who receives an inheritance from the estate, is permitted to serve as an executor, but the executor who is a beneficiary may not witness the will if they have a direct interest in it. The executor usually is in charge of:
- Getting death certificates
- Creating an inventory of the decedent’s assets, unless one exists already
- Contacting an attorney to begin the probate process
- Notifying financial institutions, including banks and investment firms of the person’s death
- Obtaining a tax ID number for the estate and opening an estate account
- Distributing assets to the persons named in the will.
The executor may not change the terms of the will, only carry out the instructions. They may collect a fee for their services, usually a percentage of the estate’s value. Regardless, whether they collect their fee is an individual decision.
Can you change the name of the executor on your estate?
There are many reasons why you might wish to change the person you originally named as executor to your estate. This is an important task, and if there have been changes in your life, then your estate plan and will should reflect those changes. Some of the reasons for changing your executor:
- If the original executor dies, or becomes seriously ill and cannot fulfill their duties
- If your spouse was the executor, but is now your ex-spouse
- The person originally named as executor does not want the responsibility
- Your original executor now lives many miles away.
There are two different ways to change the executor of your will. It is recommended that you discuss which of these two ways are better for your unique situation. Simple solutions often turn into estate planning nightmares.
How is a Codicil Used to Change the Executor?
A codicil is an amendment to a will that changes the terms, without changing the entire will. You specify the changes you want to make to your will, the name of the person who you now want to serve as executor from now on and the date the change needs to take effect. Estate laws are different in every state, so check with your estate planning attorney on the best way to do this. In some states, you’ll need at least two witnesses to be present when you sign and date the codicil. Remember that beneficiaries may not witness the codicil. Be careful to keep your will and the codicil in a safe place.
Why Change the Entire Will to Change Only the Executor’s Name?
The reasons for your changing your executor’s name may have occurred in combination with other changes in your life that warrant a review of your entire estate plan. This should be done every three or four years, or every time there are big life changes or big changes to tax laws. If you don’t review your estate plan, you can miss out on new opportunities to protect more of your estate for your family.
In addition, using a codicil adds a potential point of failure; if it wasn’t executed right, it won’t be effective. Often it’s safer to execute an entirely new will.
What If I Don’t Name an Executor?
Not having an executor is similar to not having a will. If you do not have either, the court will assign an executor to be in charge of distributing your estate, according to the laws of your state. You may not like how the law distributes your assets, but you will have given up any control. It’s much better for all concerned for you to have a will and make certain to have an executor.
Reference: KAKE.com (Dec. 29, 2020) “How to Change the Executor of a Will”
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