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Understanding the probate process helps in picking an executor

Choosing an executor for an estate is one of the most critical decisions in estate planning. Whomever a District of Columbia resident chooses must be able and willing to perform numerous tasks while carrying out his or her wishes. Having at least a basic understanding of the probate process may help make a determination of who would be best for the position and how to construct an estate plan to make the process as easy as possible.

An executor will be responsible for locating, appraising and distributing all of an individual's property, whether it is located here in the District of Columbia or elsewhere. Including a detailed list of one's assets could make locating property easier. The list should include any information needed to access the assets as well, such as log-ins and passwords.

Before any of the property can be distributed, notification of the person's death needs to be made to creditors, heirs and beneficiaries. His or her debts need to be paid or otherwise disposed of by the court. It will also be necessary to determine whether estate tax returns are necessary. Distributing the assets of the estate is one of the last major duties of an executor.

An executor is not required to understand the law or accounting in order to serve. One merely needs to be able to seek out the appropriate assistance in order to complete the probate process. However, he or she needs to be able to deal with different personalities in the family and be able to deal with any conflicts that may arise. Most important to many people is the ability to trust the person chosen to be their executors, since having the peace of mind that he or she will carry out their wishes is paramount.

Source: The Huffington Post, "An Estate Administration Overview", Brad Reid, Feb. 26, 2015

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