The executor of your will is the person who will ultimately be responsible for trying to see that your last wishes are followed.
There’s no rule requiring executors to have professional financial or legal experience — but they do have to do their best to fulfill all of the requirements of the law and see that your assets are handled appropriately. They have to take an inventory of your estate, file the papers to get the estate into probate, close out your accounts, file your last tax return and divide up all of your liquid and non-liquid assets according to the law and your will.
In other words, it’s a big responsibility.
If you’re serious about wanting to make sure that your last wishes are followed, your choice of executor may be just as important as what’s actually written into your will. Before you decide on your executor, consider the following questions:
1. Does the person you’re considering have common sense? You want an executor who knows when something is over his or her head and will ask for help from the appropriate source, whether that’s an accountant or an attorney.
2. Is the person up to the task? Not everyone wants the kind of responsibility that an executor has, so make sure that you have discussed the idea with your candidate before you name him or her the executor of your will.
3. Will he or she likely survive you? If you’re writing a will while you’re in your twenties, naming your older brother or sister as your executor probably makes sense. However, if you and your siblings are all in your golden years, there’s a strong likelihood that your executor may not outlive you. Choose someone significantly younger and healthier than yourself to do the job.
4. Should you name a neutral third party? Sometimes, it really is best to name a law firm as your executor, especially if you think your heirs either can’t or won’t get along. You can help prevent a lot of family conflict by taking it out of their hands and putting a neutral party in charge.
If you need more information or assistance with estate planning, including help deciding on an executor, talk to an attorney today.
Source: AARP, “Choose the Right Executor or Trustee,” G.M. Filisko, accessed May 26, 2017