When putting together your estate plan, it is important to think about how it will be administered. Wills and trusts administration can be a complex process in Massachusetts, although having an estate plan in place is without a doubt one of the best ways to simplify it. One of the critical decisions you will make when planing your will, is to decide who to appoint as the personal representative (also called Executor) of your estate. The personal representative of your estate is responsible for collecting the assets that belonged to you and ensuring that after all the debts and obligations are met and that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Check with the person that you are naming first. The personal representative will be taking on a job. In order to improve that person’s efficiency and therefore make the most of your estate plan, start by talking with the person you want to perform the job and make sure that he or she is willing and able to do so. It’s possible that you could name someone as the personal representative of the estate intending it to be an honor, but the person actually feels like it is a burden or unwanted responsibility. Keep in mind that this doesn’t make the person uncaring, rather, it allows you to name someone who will do the job willingly and well. If you struggle to find someone that is trustworthy or willing to do the job, consider appointing an experienced attorney.
2. Discuss your estate plan with the personal representative while you are alive. It’s hard to foresee what kinds of problems could arise during wills and trusts administration, so laying things out in advance can help avoid surprises later. Family dynamics are an incredibly personal and complicated thing, and the estate plan will likely need to take them into consideration. So, if one family member has a problem with addiction, a grandchild has a disability, or one sibling is substantially wealthier than others, these are all possible reasons a plan would not look the way everyone expected. Preparing them, and the personal representative, can avoid drama later—including but not limited to someone trying to contest the will. Keeping the personal representative apprised of potentially upsetting aspects of the estate plan can help them navigate the wills and trusts administration later, especially since they will be clear on your intentions and will have an easier time carrying them out.
3. Leave a list of assets for your personal representative. Your personal representative will need a list to know where your assets are located. Are there any passwords that they will need to know? Taking an inventory of your assets, where they are located, how they are held (jointly or individually), and whether any beneficiaries are named, will help your personal representative do the job that you have asked him or her to do.
Your personal representative will likely need assistance from an estate planning lawyer to really understand what will be expected of them and to gain insight into things like taxes, court costs, paying off debt, and so on. With a little guidance up front, the wills and trusts administration can run as smoothly as possible.
The attorneys at Senior Solutions are often appointed to serve as the personal representative of estates and guide those appointed to serve in this role. In addition, Attorney Kathy McNair was appointed by the Governor to act as a Public Admnistrator for Suffolk County. This means that she is selected to serve as the representative ofr estates without any known heirs in Suffolk County.
Senior Solutions is an Elder Law and Estate Planning Law Firm serving the Boston, Massachusetts area. We meet with clients in either our Belmont or Hingham offices.