Being asked to serve as an executor or a trustee for an estate is certainly an honor, but it’s also a considerable responsibility. And knowing and understanding those responsibilities can help you be prepared.
Many people don’t realize what they are taking on and all the duties required, says Lisa Montano, an Estate Planning Strategist for Wells Fargo Advisors. “Depending on the estate’s level of complexity and the assets in the estate that need to be administered, it can be very time-consuming,” she says.
Here are five things you need to know now:
It’s not an easy job. Serving as executor or trustee typically requires a significant amount of time, patience, and organization. It can take up to a year, maybe longer, to completely wrap up someone’s financial affairs, Montano says.
You need to know what the assets are and how to find them. Ask where the will or trust is located and how you will be able to access those documents when the time comes. Also, consider
asking for a detailed list of assets and where they can be found.
You can seek professional help. You can hire a lawyer to help you manage the most complicated duties or to oversee the whole process. You can also engage a CPA to help with tax issues. “Even if the estate is simple, consulting with an attorney is a good idea. There are responsibilities and deadlines you have to meet that are laid out by state law. You also need to follow the instructions as laid out in the will or trust. Sometimes people do things on their own and it gets them in trouble. The court may remove them as executor or trustee, or they may be held personally liable for actions they have taken,” Montano says.
You may be entitled to compensation. Trustees and executors are typically entitled to collect a
reasonable fee, Montano says. The amount may be regulated by state law or specified in the will or trust. You may choose to waive the fee, but you might still want to be reimbursed for travel and other expenses.
You can decline to serve. It’s okay to say you are not comfortable serving, Montano says. If you do, then someone else or a corporate trustee or a third-party executor such as a bank, trust company, or a professional who has experience dealing with estates will need to be chosen.
Our firm does not provide tax or legal advice.
Trust services available through banking and trust affiliates in addition to non-affiliated companies of Wells Fargo Advisors. Any estate plan should be reviewed by an attorney who specializes in estate planning and is licensed to practice law in your state.
This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and provided courtesy of Richard Zangara, Senior Vice President in Warren. Richard can be reached at 908-542-0348. Visit Richards�s website at
Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Member SIPC, is a registered broker-dealer and a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.