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The duties of an executor

The task of choosing an executor may seem daunting to New York residents who are planning their estates. Knowing what an executor does may help people identify who may best fill that role.

An executor is a person appointed in a person's will to administer the deceased person's estate. This includes paying any outstanding debts the deceased may have had at the time of their death, paying taxes on their assets and ensuring that their wishes as stated in their will are carried out. People who have large estates sometimes appoint money managers, attorneys or other professionals as executors since their estates may require more experience to administer. Since the tasks of an executor tend to be extensive, New York law says that executors are entitled to compensation paid from the estate.

To some people, it may seem natural to name a surviving spouse, child or other relative as executor. However, family members, beneficiaries of an estate or other people close to the deceased may have a conflict of interest if they are appointed. In addition, people who are not used to making financial decisions may be unsuited to managing the estate's investments or other assets. Some people name more than one executor to minimize conflicts of interest or to give executors who are less experienced in managing finances or property a source of advice in handling these matters. Business partners or friends who are knowledgeable in law or asset management may serve well as co-executors.

Choosing the right executor often determines how well an estate's assets will be managed and how fairly property will be divided among beneficiaries. Estate planning attorneys may be able to advise clients on whom to appoint as executor and other aspects of the will-writing process.

Source: The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, "What is an executor? ", September 23, 2014

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