What To Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Executor


Many people simply default to choosing a close relative to serve in the role of executor. Your executor is the person responsible for handling your estate administration. An executor is either named by the court to administer the decedent’s estate or named in a will.

An executor’s duties can cover many different aspects, especially if the individual who passed away owned substantial assets. Some of the most common duties of an executor include determining estate liability, gathering an inventorying the assets of the estate, paying off liabilities, determining heirs who may be eligible to receive remaining distributions, and then distributing the assets’ remains to the appropriate parties. If an executor fails to perform these duties accurately, that person may be held individually liable to heirs or creditors who become harmed due to those inactions or actions.

Start by considering the complexity of your own estate as well as the abilities and willingness of the people you’re thinking about asking to choose. Serving an executor can take a significant amount of time because they must take care of things like notifying life insurance companies, investment companies, banks, creditors, publishing death notifications, and even filing estate tax returns.

According to one research study, the average time it takes to settle an estate is over 570 hours. You want to choose an individual who is comfortable serving in this role, as well as someone who is capable of maintaining open lines of communication with other parties to your estate. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your intended executor, too, so that you know they feel confident and are willing to take on this level of responsibility. Working with a qualified estate planning lawyer in NH can help you effectively name this individual for the purposes of your estate.

Which Of My Expenses Are Associated With My Estate?

Settling an estate can be a complex process, which is why it is so important to discuss who will serve as your executor well in advance. This person should be prepared to handle these different tasks and be aware of the fiduciary responsibility they hold to your estate and your beneficiaries.

Expenses of an estate must be identified and properly paid out along with any other probate related debts before distributions can be made to beneficiaries. Multiple different costs apply when someone passes away and the estate must be settled. The primary expenses of most estates include;

Fees, such as hiring an accountant or estate planning attorney, as well as fees for the personal representative or executor which may be set by the state. Certain NH rules determine the order in which your expenses are paid out. With insolvent estates, this means that those at the bottom of the priority list may not be paid at all. Here are some examples of common items paid out with priority:

  • Taxes, such as income tax, inheritance tax or estate tax.
  • Outstanding debts.
  • Property distribution and maintenance.
  • Final expenses, such as cremation or funeral costs.

The estate may also pay for things, such as appraisals necessary to determine the estate asset value, closing costs connected to the value of a home, credit cards, liens, medical or medical bills or incidental costs, such as mileage reimbursements and recording fees. Make sure that you have considered all potential expenses that could limit the value of your overall estate if you are intending for certain loved ones to receive assets from your estate. Speak with a qualified estate planning attorney in NH to learn more.



Maine - executor

Who Can Be An Executor In Maine?

When you pass away, you may wish to enable certain people to take actions to handle your estate through the appointment of an executor. The executor is the person responsible for handling each aspect of probate administration. This is in fact one of the most important reasons to make a will altogether.Maine - executor

The primary job of your executor is to protect all of your property until any taxes and debts have been paid, at which point they are responsible for distributing your property in accordance with the will. Not every person who lives in Maine is eligible to serve as an executor of an estate. An executor must be at least 18 years old and must be of sound mind, meaning that they have not been judged incapacitated by a court. This is listed in Maine Revised Statutes ANNTIT.18-C, 3-203.

Note that there are no specific statutes in Maine that prohibit someone who has been convicted of a felony from serving as an executor. However, if the court determines that a potential executor is found to be unsuitable in formal proceedings, then a Maine probate court may reject them.

Maine does not impose any special requirements on those executors who live out of state, but it is important to consider the potential downsides of appointing someone who does not live in Maine who may need to attend to your affairs and handle many respects of your estate. Schedule a consultation with an experienced Maine estate planning lawyer to learn more about this process and what to consider as you plan.



tax returns

When Does an Executor Need to File Tax Returns?

An executor has numerous different responsibilities in the process of closing out a person’s estate. Who you choose to serve in this executor or personal representative role is important because he or she may also need to communicate with your loved ones during the process. tax returns

Furthermore, there is some complicated steps that must be addressed by the executor, including the filing tax returns. By tax day of the year following their death, an individual income tax return needs to be filed for the deceased person. If that estate earns income during any part of the administration, its own tax identification number can be important to keep track of any potential tax consequences and the earnings as well.

The vast majority of estates do not have enough assets inside them to file federal estate tax returns, but if one is needed, it must be filed and paid within nine months of the date of death. Severe penalties and interests can apply if this deadline is skipped.

Many people installed as executors or personal representatives choose to consult with a knowledgeable probate attorney to verify that they have covered all of their bases in this situation and minimize any possible personal consequences. If you have further questions about how to set your executor up for success by having comprehensive estate planning in place, now is a great time to schedule a consultation with a dedicated estate planning lawyer.

If you think that your executor will need to file a tax return, you can make things easier for them by creating a comprehensive plan and asset list on your end. This can be provided as part of your transfer of information to your executor with your estate planning documents like a will, since this gives an executor a good place to start.

Contact our dedicated NH estate planning lawyers to get started.

What Are the Most Common Mistakes an Executor Can Make?

If you have recently been named the executor of a loved one’s estate, you have serious legal responsibilities to wrap up this person’s affairs, distribute the assets of the estate and pay for any income and estate taxes in accordance with relevant laws. Far too often, executors who mean well, and even those who don’t can make mistakes that could expose the entire estate to litigation or even higher taxes.

Some of the most common mistakes can be avoided by ensuring that you have completed proper estate planning and your executor is well aware of the role they will play. Executors can make mistakes, such as:

  • Not paying taxes on tangible personal property.
  • Confusing non-probate and probate property.
  • Failing to hire counsel at a negotiated or reasonable fee.
  • Not liquidating securities.
  • Not following the terms of the will.
  • Inappropriately allocating income between the estate income tax and the decedent’s income tax returns.
  • Making distributions to heirs too early that can expose the executor to personal liability.
  • Failing to choose an appropriate fiscal year for the estate.
  • Not appraising personal property.

In all of these circumstances it is beneficial to plan in advance to minimize the possibility of an executor making costly mistakes that could delay the probate process and the distribution of assets to loved ones.

Our NH estate planning lawyer can guide you through the process of what to do if you have questions about serving as an executor. Schedule a consultation today to get your questions answered.



What Does a New Hampshire Executor Really Do?

Your legal personal representative or executor, appointed either by you through the creation of your will or through the court, is responsible for finding and then overseeing all of the assets inside your estate. This includes many different important steps, meaning that being an executor is a big responsibility.

Some of the assets that need to be assessed during probate include retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, jewelry, real estate property, and other items of value. It’s important to recognize that not all assets owned by you will necessarily pass through probate. The executor is responsible for paying off any debts or taxes owed by the deceased from the estate, usually by selling the assets that will not directly pass to someone else.

In these circumstances, remaining funds are then to be distributed to beneficiaries. Finally, the executor has the responsibility for filing the personal income tax returns on behalf of the deceased. This can only occur after the full estate inventory has been taken, the value of assets completely calculated, and all taxes and debt paid off. This is the point at which your executor can then seek authorization from the court to distribute whatever remains of the estate to beneficiaries.

It’s important to choose a person who is comfortable serving in this role and is well aware of the responsibilities that it entails. Make sure that your NH executor is legally eligible to hold this position and that you have discussed this responsibility directly with them. You do not want an executor who is caught off guard by being asked to serve in your estate or finds out they have been appointed after the fact.

Are you missing a will in your estate plan? Reach out to our estate planning law firm in NH to get support.


Can Anyone Serve as the Executor of a New Hampshire Estate?

One of the most important reasons to create a will, regardless of your age or perception of your personal wealth, is to name an executor. This is because this important role is a person who will carry out the administration of your estate after you pass away.

Their primary job is to protect any of the property that you owned until any taxes and debts have been paid and then transfer any remaining property to your heirs who are entitled to it per your wishes.

Every state has rules about who can and cannot serve as an executor of an estate. Bear in mind that just because someone does meet the statutory grounds to serve as an executor doesn’t mean they want to serve in this role or that they’ll be successful in doing so.

The basic requirements for serving as an executor in New Hampshire are that this person must be of sound mind, meaning that they have not been judged incapacitated by any court, per New Hampshire RSA 21:44,533:4. There is no statute prohibiting a person from naming an executor who has been convicted of a felony in New Hampshire.

The other requirement for an executor in New Hampshire is that the party be at least 18 years old. Potential executors can be rejected by the courts in New Hampshire when they have a conflict of interest or for any reason found to be unsuitable for serving in this role or lack the ability to make sound judgements.

Need help writing your own will or changing who is named as an executor in your current will? Our NH estate planning law firm can help.



Woman signing paperwork naming an executor to her estate.

How to Make Things Easier for Your Executor

When you name someone as the executor of your estate, you are sending a message that you trust them significantly because this person is responsible for handling all of your affairs when you are no longer around. You are also passing on a lot of tasks and work for this executor because it is a very time-consuming process to wrap up an estate. Woman signing paperwork naming an executor to her estate.

Some of the steps that you take now can make things much easier for your executor and by association, your heirs. The first thing to do is update your trust beneficiary and will designations.

One of the best things you can do for your executor is to leave behind documents that truly reflect your wishes and are easily found after you pass away. Make sure that all beneficiary forms for your retirement accounts, life insurance policies and payable on death designations are fully updated. Be sure that if you’ve created a living trust that all of the relevant assets have been funded inside of it. An executor must also be able to find the documents that you have left behind.

There are legal and financial documents that almost everyone will have or need and these should be organized in one safe place. This can include vehicle titles, birth certificates, divorce decrees, marriage certificates, military discharge paperwork, property tax records, social security records, trust documents, brokerage statements, insurance policies and deeds to real estate.

Where possible, make the extra step to introduce your executor to your professional advisors, such as your life insurance company, brokerage company, bank, and home and auto insurance company. Ensure that some cash is accessible so that your executor can take action sooner rather than later.

Need more help with your estate plan? Set up a time to talk to our law firm about your estate planning program.