When you consider who to name as an executor of your will, keep in mind that the job of executor is very time-consuming and requires many difficult decisions in order to faithfully carry out the wishes of the deceased. The executor’s job starts upon the death of the decedent and ends once all of the directions contained in the will have been completed and the estate is closed under applicable law.
First, the will must enter probate, the judicial system in place to determine the validity of the will. Subsequently, a determination is made regarding creditors, taxes, the identity of the beneficiaries, and the extent to which each beneficiary inherits from the estate. Additional variables can complicate the job of the executor, including an estate tax audit or a legal challenge to the will. In total, the executor’s role could last from one to several years.
Honest, Vigilant, and Detail Oriented
Given constantly changing tax laws, the enormous amount of personal property in some estates, and the potential for unhappy heirs, the potential executor should have a few basic qualities. First, for the sake of those who will inherit, the executor candidate should be honest and diplomatic. Depending on the estate, the executor may have quite a bit of work to do to get the job done right. Not everyone is good at keeping track of the many items of personal property that might be found in the attic or the basement. Staying focused on the process of taking inventory of the estate and meeting deadlines can be crucial to the work of the executor. When you are thinking of someone to be your executor, ask yourself whether this is someone who can efficiently meet deadlines and yet maintain harmony with all interested parties.
A Younger, Responsible Family Member or Friend
Who knows you better than your family or your best friend? Probably nobody is more familiar with your intentions than your loved ones. In addition, these people in your life might also have the best idea of where all your assets might be located. If you don’t have a family member or a close friend, consider making a list of all the people you do know and start to narrow down that list. During this process, you will probably figure out those who would be best suited for the role of executor.
One problem people commonly run into as they grow older is that their contemporaries start to pass away due to sickness and old age. This is one reason why many people opt for an executor who is younger in age yet responsible. Look to your social circle and identify the younger people within it.
Someone With Experience
Educational and professional background could also be relevant to choosing an executor. While it is true that anyone can hire an expert for consultation on estate issues, the job may be best handled by someone who has related experience, such as an attorney or an accountant. Such people would have familiarity with the issues that may come up, and they also have liability insurance, just in case something goes wrong.
Some lawyers advise their clients to avoid naming a specific bank or trust company in the will, but rather to appoint someone to interview these institutions and negotiate fees if necessary.
Another popular idea for people with many children is to name all of the children as co-executors. This is generally not recommended, as it will result in arguments, with the larger share of work being done by one or two of the siblings. In addition, if all of the children are co-executors, all of their signatures will be needed when papers need to be signed. This can result is great inconvenience and delay. The better choice is to name one child in that role, while others can be named as alternates.
Of course, the cost of an executor’s services should be considered when naming a person in that role. You should consult with an attorney to gain an understanding of how much applicable state laws will allow fees to be charged to the estate.
Lastly, you should discuss the role of executor with the person you would like to name prior to signing documents. In addition, you should discuss the matter with family members who were not chosen to avoid any hurt feelings.