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Understanding the Executor’s Role

Sept. 16, 2021

A couple signs documents with their executorAccording to a study of 2,500 individuals by Caring.com, 44% of adults aged 55 and over have a will or estate planning documents. As you consider your estate plans, you should give serious thought to who will be the executor of your estate. It’s important that you know what is involved in the role of an executor before you decide who will settle your estate after you are gone.

Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning can help. He has almost three decades of legal experience in estate planning, consumer concerns, and litigation. His work shows his compassion for his clients in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, as well as in Portland, Oregon and the surrounding area.

What is an Executor?

An executor is the individual responsible for the deceased’s estate after they have passed. The executor must make sure that all debts and taxes have been paid before following the deceased’s wishes in the will or trust.

The executor has a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of the deceased above all else during this process. Although family members and friends may disagree with the contents of a will, the executor is legally obligated to act in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

Who Can Serve as an Executor in Washington & Oregon?

There are a few differences when it comes to who can serve as an executor in Washington and Oregon. In both states, the executor must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. It is also preferable that the executor live in-state, and ideally in the same county as where the deceased lived.

In Washington, felons cannot be executors. Anyone who has committed a crime involving “moral turpitude,” meaning the crime was shameful or unethical, also cannot be the executor of an estate in Washington.

In Oregon, felons can be the executor of an estate if they notify the court that they were convicted. In the case that their felony was a crime that showed unfaithfulness or neglect, they may be disqualified as an executor.

Oregon also has a set of standards for executors who are attorneys. The state will reject executors who are attorneys who have been suspended for misconduct, disbarred, are under investigation for misconduct, or facing disciplinary proceedings.

Grounds for Removal

If there is any question about how the executor is managing the estate, that could be grounds for removal. For example, if the executor does not keep the estate’s assets separate from their own estate, that is serious misconduct that could cause them to be removed. Similarly, an executor who mismanages the estate’s finances could be removed. Above all else, the executor must act in the best interest of the deceased.

The Executor’s Role

The executor must fulfill many obligations, including:

  • Enter the deceased’s will into probate court (depending on if probate is necessary given the status of the estate)

  • Notify insurance companies of the death, as well as other agencies and organizations, including the Social Security Administration, Medicare, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Department of Treasury

  • Make sure that the deceased’s debts and taxes are paid before they distribute any of the estate’s assets

  • Keep detailed records of all matters related to the settling of the estate

  • Appear in court as a representative of the estate if it is necessary

In addition to these tasks, there are many other obligations an executor must perform in their role.

Compensation for Executor

Because executors do so much work on behalf of the estate, they are legally entitled to compensation. The deceased may state in their will how much they want their executor to receive.

Otherwise, the executor will typically receive a payment of 3% of the value of the estate. However, the payment amount is set by the state and may vary. The court will determine what is reasonable compensation if the state law doesn’t specify. No matter what, there should be pay for the executor.

Getting the Experienced Legal Counsel You Need

Making plans for the settlement of your estate involves a significant amount of decision-making. One of the most important decisions you will make is who to name as executor of your estate.

Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning can help you be confident that you have all the information you need to make this important decision. With his personal interest and professional standing in elder law, he wants to make sure you are empowered in all situations.

The Law Offices of Robert Taylor-Manning serves clients in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, as well as Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas. Contact the Law Offices of Robert Taylor-Manning today to set up a free consultation.