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Who is Designated to Carry out the Terms of a Will?

Who Is Designated to Carry out the Terms of a Will in Oklahoma?

Experienced Oklahoma City probate lawyers advise executors and beneficiaries

A valid last will and testament provides instructions for the disposition of property owned by the testator upon their death. However, the testator must also name someone who can carry out those instructions. That person is known as the executor of the will. Frequently, an executor is generally new to the probate process, and needs assistance to fulfill their various duties successfully. At Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC, our Oklahoma City probate attorneys draw on decades of experience to shepherd executors through the probate process, so they distribute assets in a timely and efficient manner for the benefit of the estate’s heirs.

How does a person become the executor of a will?

When a person drafts a will, he or she often nominates a trustworthy acquaintance to complete the allocation of assets consistent with the will’s language. Before appointing an executor, it’s always best to consult that person, to see how they feel about the job. Depending on the size and orderliness of the estate, an executor’s job might fairly straightforward or extremely challenging, especially for someone who has never served as an executor before.

The requirements to be an executor in Oklahoma are as follows:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be of sound mind
  • Not have a conviction for a “notorious crime”

Most people nominated in wills to be executors accept the appointment and get court approval to act as the personal representative for the estate. However, others seek to excuse themselves for various reasons, including lack of time, lack of expertise and to avoid a conflict of interests. The probate court can also reject a candidate for several reasons, such as “drunkenness, improvidence, or want of understanding and integrity.”

If the named candidate does not assume the role, the court appoints someone else. Often, this person is a close relative who is willing to serve.

What is the difference between an executor and a trustee?

Both executors and trustees are fiduciaries. This means they have the legal responsibility to administer property which is not their own for the benefit of parties named in a legal instrument. An executor is charged with carrying out the wishes expressed in a will, and a trustee manages and distributes assets according to the terms of a trust.

Carrying out the terms of the decedent’s will

The first step in the estate administration process is for someone with knowledge of a will to present the document to the probate court for approval. Once the court decides the will is genuine and valid, the court names a representative for the estate (usually the executor named in the will). The personal representative must then settle the estate, which entails:

  • Identifying and notifying beneficiaries and creditors
  • Transferring the decedent’s assets into the estate
  • Assessing the value of the decedent’s estate
  • Paying the estate’s debts
  • Filing and pay the decedent’s taxes and, if necessary, the estate tax
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries named in the will

The probate process can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, and the efficiency of the executor’s work. He or she can collect a stipend for their efforts. Often, an executor retains legal counsel to facilitate the process, especially if the executor has extensive work and/or family responsibilities. The executor may direct that reasonable attorney fees be paid from estate assets.

Schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable Oklahoma City probate attorney

Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC provides legal counsel for executors throughout the probate process. If you’ve been nominated as an executor of an estate, schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced and dedicated attorneys in our Oklahoma City law firm. Call us at 405-946-5533 or contact us online today.

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