Choosing the Executor of Your Estate

estate planning signOne of the most important decisions you will make for your estate plan is in selecting the individual (or institution) to be in charge of your assets after you have passed. Also known as the executor, the tasks of this fiduciary can impact your beneficiaries and estate; therefore, there are factors you should consider before selecting a person for the position.

You are allowed to select more than one individual to fulfill these roles, known as co-executors. Some people choose more than one fiduciary – individuals legally obliged to act in your estate’s best interests – to ensure that at least one individual has legal and financial expertise, while the other is close to the family. If you do choose to have more than one executor, be sure to choose two people who can work well together. It is also recommended that you select a successor for each role, in case your first choice is unable to serve.

Choosing Your Executor(s)

The individual responsible for administering your estate is the executor. Because this individual will have direct access to your assets, finances, and resources, it is imperative that you select an individual who is financially stable, responsible, and – most importantly – trustworthy.

The law requires your estate to have an executor so that there is someone responsible for collecting all assets of your estate, protecting your estate property, creating an inventory, paying valid creditor claims (including taxes), representing the estate, and distributing assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. In some cases, an executor may have to liquidate assets (such as selling stocks, bonds, or even furniture) to have adequate cash on-hand to pay taxes, creditors of the estate, and beneficiaries.

Paid versus Non-Paid Executors

One approach is to appoint someone who has no conflict of interest with your estate, meaning someone who has nothing to gain from your will. Many testators will name a paid executor, such as an attorney or accountant, to avoid conflict. Some valid reasons for choosing a paid executor include:

  • Spouses and family members are often burdened with grief; therefore, it is too much of a burden to ask that they are personally liable for all estate taxes, filings, and fiduciary tasks.
  • Executors must gather assets; therefore, a spouse or family member would be required to retrieve money and property loaned to friends, which creates a conflict for that family member.
  • A professional has the ability to call on the advice of other professionals, such as accountants, tax experts, investment counselors, and business administrators to assist them with their fiduciary demands.
  • A professional also has the time and emotional distance to handle the complex role of being the executor, while a family member does not.

Non-paid executors, which are usually family or close friends, can waive the executor’s fee to which they are entitled and serve the estate. However, this individual must be capable of doing the job; therefore, a person should be selected like an employee. A desirable executor is one who has experience handling bills (especially complicated Medicare, ambulance fees, hospital bills, etc.). This individual should be highly organized because they will be required to manage a preponderance of paperwork and meet strict deadlines with the court.

Most importantly, the law does not allow convicted felons, minors, or non-U.S. citizens to serve as fiduciaries. While a nonresident can serve as an executor in the state of New York, it is often best if the executor is local so that they can meet the demands of their position.

Schedule a Time to Meet with Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, PC

Selecting an executor is extremely important. An estate planning attorney can assist you with not only your estate plan, but also with selecting a responsible, suitable executor for your estate. Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC online or call 516-605-0625 to schedule a consultation.

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