If someone has named you as the executor of their estate in their last will and testament, you might be feeling honored — and maybe a little bit terrified too. What does this mean, exactly? What will you have to do? How much work is involved? Will it create any financial risks for you?
In this article, we’ll answer these questions and help you understand what’s going to happen if you’ve been named as an executor. We’ll also talk about potential liability issues for executors and how to handle them.


What Does an Executor Do in Michigan?

In Michigan, executors are technically called “personal representatives.” However, most people are more familiar with the term “executor,” so we’ll continue to use it throughout this article.

When someone dies, the person they name as the executor in their will takes charge of their estate and becomes responsible for seeing it through the probate process. If the deceased person doesn’t have a will, or if the person they appointed doesn’t want to or can’t serve as the executor, then the probate court will appoint someone to serve. The surviving spouse of the deceased person, if there is one, has priority to serve as executor if they stand to inherit under the person’s will.

An executor has to accomplish many things, including:

  • Gathering the deceased person’s assets, take inventory of them, and watch over them
  • Having the assets appraised, if needed
  • Setting up a separate bank account for the estate
  • Using the assets to pay the deceased person’s debts and taxes
  • Getting in touch with the people who are named in the will or who stand to inherit money or property
  • Filing the will in probate court, assuming there is a will
  • Distributing remaining property according to the will (or according to state law if there is no will)
  • Keeping detailed records of how they handle and distribute the assets
  • Filing a final report with the state and closing the estate

If that sounds like a lot of work, it certainly can be. Serving as an executor is an honor, but it’s also a big responsibility and can cause plenty of stress.

Is There Any Risk to Serving as an Executor?

Some states require the executor to hire an attorney, but Michigan isn’t one of them. However, there are many reasons to hire an experienced estate planning and probate lawyer for help if you’ve been named as an executor.

The most important reason may be this: the estate or its beneficiaries can sue you personally if they disagree with the way you handled the estate. And you could be held financially liable for any mistakes you make. It might seem unfair that you could be forced to pay a significant sum out of your own pockets when you were just doing your best to juggle everything and keep up, but that’s reality — serving as an executor without any help can be a thankless task.

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Beyond that, the volume and variety of tasks you have to handle as an executor can be overwhelming, especially when you’re still grieving from the loss of someone you had a close relationship with. You can expect lots of paperwork, phone calls, emailing, faxing documents, and trips to the courthouse. In some cases, this process can drag on for years. Settling an estate basically amounts to organizing and sorting out someone else’s whole life, which isn’t easy when you have your own to deal with, too.

Executors do receive compensation for their work. But Michigan law doesn’t dictate exactly how much they get paid. Instead, the law simply says that the executor can charge a “reasonable fee” for handling an estate. This gives the probate court discretion to determine the executor’s fee, although the executor can request a higher fee if they can show the court that the amount they want is “reasonable.” Typical fees for executors often add up to about 3 to 5 percent of the total estate.

Unfortunately, if you make a mistake and wind up in a lawsuit after serving as an executor, the fee you receive won’t seem nearly worth it. That’s why it’s usually best to contact an attorney right away if you’ve been named as an executor in someone’s will.

Named as an Executor in West Michigan? Contact the Law Offices of Kari Santana for Help

If you’ve been named as a personal representative or executor in West Michigan, the team at the Law Offices of Kari Santana is here to help. We can walk you through what to expect and guide you through every step of the process. And we’ll work to make sure every detail is attended to so you don’t have to worry about potential liability issues. Our services are affordable and always tailored to your individual needs.

To get started today with a free initial consultation, call us at (616) 717-5759 or fill out our quick and easy consultation form below.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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