Choosing the right person to be the executor of your estate plan is crucial to help ensure that your wishes are carried out as you’ve designated and that your estate is settled with a minimum of problems, conflict and delays. The executor does a lot more than distribute your assets. They need to deal with the probate court, pay your final bills, file your last income tax return, notify multiple entities of your death, deal with the probate court and potentially manage family and other beneficiary disputes.
While a family member may be the most obvious choice for the job, they’re not always the best choice. In the aftermath of your death, close family members like your spouse, children and siblings may not be emotionally up to taking on this responsibility. Further, if you have multiple adult children, choosing one to be your executor can lead to hurt and anger among the others. The same may be true of your siblings.
What skills and qualities should they have?
Whether you’re considering only family members or potentially friends and others in your close circle as well, it’s important to know what characteristics and skills your choice should possess.
An executor should ideally be someone who:
- Is responsible and organized
- Handles their own finances responsibly
- Is younger than you
- Can deal firmly but tactfully with people
- Remains calm under pressure
- Lives nearby or is able to spend considerable time in the area while settling the estate
- You should choose one or more people as alternates in case your chosen executor can’t serve when needed. It’s crucial to talk with your choice and your alternates before you include their names in your estate plan and ensure that they’re willing to do it. This isn’t a surprise you should spring on anyone.
Would a professional be a better choice?
Remember that you also have the option of choosing a professional executor. Some people work as private professional fiduciaries. If you have accounts with a financial institution that has a trust department, that may be an option. These come at a price that’s larger than the amount a family member or friend would get in compensation from the estate, but it may be worth it.
Having sound legal guidance as you create your estate plan and choose your executor, trustees and other administrators will help give you peace of mind.