How to Choose an ExecutorHow to Choose an Executor

Creating an estate plan will give you peace of mind, but the hardest part may be selecting the executor.  This person needs to file paperwork on time and able to mediate potentially volatile family situations.  You may be asking this person to commit to months or even years of handling your affairs.

What Is An Executor?

This is the person you appoint in your will to manage your estate, deal with the probate court, pay any debts including taxes, collect assets, and distribute your estate according to your will.  This person basically serves as your representative after you pass.  He or she completes the role of overseer, manager, distributor and peacemaker if needed.

Many people choose a family member or friend to be their executor.  This person needs to be detail-oriented and over the age of 18.  This should be someone you think will outlive you.

Characteristics that Make a Good Executor

It is best to select someone who is trustworthy, honest, and good with people.  Maturity is a very important quality, as this person may need to work with a lawyer or an accountant.  Also, select someone your family trusts, whether it is your oldest child or not.  You can also hire an outside professional executor for a fee if you wish not to choose one person in your family or feel it would be a burden on your family.

Another important factor is where your executor lives.  It may take a great deal of time working with courts in your area.  You may need to check with your lawyer if your executor lives in another state as there may be additional requirements.

Experience is a good thing, but not necessary.  Common sense can be just as good.  This person should know when to seek an expert’s opinion if something is not clear.

Naming the Executor

Be sure to inform the person before naming them.  You should discuss your wishes with them ahead of time and also make a list of all bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies and any other assets.

You may also select an alternate executor or co-executor in case your first choice is unable to perform these duties. Also, it is recommended you tell your other family members ahead of time so there are no hard feelings and they know whom to contact.

It is important to review your choice periodically as sometimes the executor’s life conditions may change and it may be hard for them to perform these duties.  This can help your family avoid uncomfortable situations in the future.

Remember that being an executor takes a great deal of time and energy.  Your executor may still need to work with a professional.  This is why it is important to discuss this with the person and the rest of your family.  This person is your representative after you pass, so choose wisely whether you go with family or a legal representative.

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