In Washington you may hear the terms “executor” or “personal representative” used interchangeably. Their role is to settle, manage and administer a deceased person’s estate. They are responsible for handling any paperwork related to the estate. There are times when an executor may need to hire an attorney to help them settle an estate if there are multiple properties, liabilities, or disputes over the division of assets.
While being named as someone’s executor is a great honor it can take up to 2 years to fully administer and close an estate, so it can be a lengthy commitment. Your personal representative is responsible to collect and manage assets, prepare a balance sheet of assets and liabilities, pay obligations and taxes of the estate and they may be responsible for selling assets to pay bills and debts. All these tasks need to happen prior to the distribution to family and friends.
What do you need to consider when choosing an executor or personal representative?
The state of Washington requires executors (personal representatives) to meet a few very basic criteria: they must be at least 18 y/o, be of sound mind and can not be convicted of a felony or “any crime involving moral turpitude”. Admittedly, these are a bit sparce. You may have other requirements in mind, for example, “Is there someone in your life who is willing to serve as your executor?” “Do you have someone within your circle of friends and family who is able to be your personal representative?”
If no one in your immediate family comes to mind you could consider someone in your extended family or a trusted friend. Failing all else you could hire a professional executor such as an estate planning attorney, someone from your bank. or trust company. Make sure you have a back up executor just in case your first designee refuses or is unable to fulfill the duties of a personal representative. If no executor can be found the court will appoint one.
Do you have to pay your executor for their time to serve as your personal representative?
The simple answer is, “Yes”. Executors are usually offered a piece of the estate as compensation. If you’ve chosen a family member or friend to oversee the distribution of your assets it is customary to offer them a percentage of the assets. In Washington state 3% is the standard, but it varies from state to state.