I thought the article below from the New York Times had some good points and things to consider. – Roxanne
March 2, 2011
Choosing the Right Executor for Your Estate
By DEBORAH L. JACOBS
BEING an executor has always been a time-consuming job. And if the task of sorting through the remnants of someone’s life and carrying out final wishes was not hard enough, it recently got even more complicated.
An executor administers an estate and remains in charge until it is legally closed. Before that happens, the will must be admitted to probate — the system through which a court determines if it is a legally valid document. After that, creditors and taxes, if any, must be paid and then the named beneficiaries are entitled to their share of what is left. If there is an estate tax audit or a will contest, the executor must oversee that process, too. Depending on the complexity of the estate and subsequent events, the job might last for a couple of years or even more.
Adding to the executor’s responsibilities is the tax law that President Obama signed in December. It gives widows and widowers a special new break. For deaths in 2011 and 2012 (and beyond that if Congress extends the rule, as the president proposed in his latest budget), a surviving spouse can carry over any part of the $5 million-per-person federal estate tax exclusion not used by the spouse who recently died.
To take advantage of portability, as it is called, the executor handling the estate of the spouse who died needs to transfer the unused exclusion to the survivor, who can then use it to make lifetime gifts or pass assets through his or her estate. The prerequisite is filing an estate tax return when the spouse dies, even if no tax is owed. This return is due nine months after the death with a six-month extension allowed. If the executor does not file the return or misses the deadline, the spouse loses the right to portability.
Given this new responsibility, along with more traditional ones like crawling through attics and placating disgruntled heirs, the ideal executor should not only be honest and diplomatic, but also well organized, good with paperwork and vigilant about meeting deadlines, said Howard M. Zaritsky, a lawyer in Rapidan, Va. His litmus test: Is this someone who always files income tax returns on time?
Your choice can also mean the difference between an estate that is settled harmoniously and efficiently and one that gets bogged down in a legal and financial quagmire. Here are issues to consider.
Click here to read the rest of the story: How to Choose the Right Executor for Your Estate – NYTimes.com.