Georgia residents will likely know that selecting a responsible and trusted executor is an important part of drafting a last will and testament, but they may not be clear about the responsibilities that this individual will be burdened with. The overriding duty of an executor is to ensure that the wishes of the testator are followed, and that generally involves settling the estates outstanding debts and distributing any remaining assets to the heirs specified in the will.

Executors are not entitled to any of the proceeds when property of the estate is sold, and many individuals name an attorney as their executorbecause attorneys have a fiduciary relationship with their clients. This means that they have a legal and ethical obligation to act in their best interests. Executors are paid a fee in return for the services they provide, which most states require to be reasonable after the size and complexity of the estate is taken into consideration.

When estates are simple, the duties of the executor may be fairly straightforward, but locating all of a testator’s assets and contacting all of the heirs named in the will can sometimes be challenging. Executors are also expected to navigate the probate process and handle matters such as closing credit card and bank accounts and informing the Social Security Administration of the testator’s death. Other duties of executors include ensuring that the testator’s income taxes are paid and seeing to it that the estate’s financial obligations are met.

Attorneys with probate experience may remind their clients of the importance of choosing an executor carefully. Attorneys could also suggest that people consider placing their assets in a trust, as trusts provide testators with a greater degree of control. They also allow estates to avoid the time-consuming and public probate process.

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