5 Tips for Choosing the Right Executor for Your Estate

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The executor of your estate needs to be a responsible, trustworthy person who knows the testator (the person making the will) well and lives close to the testator. The right executor will work quickly (a will needs to be probated within four years) and knows where your will is located.
When choosing the right executor, you’ll want to:

1. Choose a Responsible Person

The executor of your will must be responsible. The person must act quickly, adhere to the wishes of the will and make sure that the will is followed as per your wishes. The person does not need to be:
  • An attorney
  • A financial planner
  • An accountant
Testators often pick someone they’re close to as an executor, and this is often a friend or family member. The person that you choose cannot be a felon – they’re automatically disqualified.

2. Choose Someone That Will Not Be Paid

You want your estate to be divided properly without excess costs being incurred. The right executor is someone that will serve without being paid. If you choose a company to be executor, there’s a good chance they will want to be paid.
If you do not want to choose a friend or family member to act as executor, you can name one of the following to be an executor:
  • Accountant
  • Attorney
  • Bank
  • Trust
Banks and trust companies often charge very high rates to serve as an executor and will refuse to serve otherwise. 

3. Consider Someone That Manages Money Well

The executor of your will must be responsible and know how to manage money well. If you have several options, you may want to name someone that has skills and knowledge in:
  • Administration positions
  • Managing money
  • Asset division
If your brother is an accountant, he may be a good choice for an executor versus your sister who is always late when paying her bills.

4. Name Multiple Executors

Your older brother may be a great, loyal person that you trust to be executor. But if your brother is a decade older and you’re both healthy, he may die before you do. A lot of wills are made when a person is young, and the will may not be revised for a period of thirty or more years before a person perishes.
When you name only one executor, the person may have passed on before you, leaving the only named executor unable to fulfill their duty.
A will should name another executor that is younger and healthier. You can put a stipulation in the will that if “my wife is unable to serve as executor, any of my children over the age of 30 will act as co-executors.”
Working with an attorney that specializes in wills can help you put a mechanism in place that will allow for multiple executor options in the event that your first executor choice cannot meet their obligations.
"If a testator wishes to modify an already existing will, he or she must implement a “codicil”. A codicil is defined as a document that is attached to a will that explains that the will has been modified.

5. Be Aware of Potential Disqualifications

A disqualified individual may be a felon, but they may also be a non-U.S. citizen. Courts need to have jurisdiction over an executor, and if the person lives outside of the US, they may not be able to act as sole executor.
The person may be able to be a co-executor, but this is something that you’ll want to ask an attorney about.
Minors cannot act as an executor either. When an executor is chosen, you may want to also put in stipulations based on age. If you chose a person that is 18 and not yet ready to handle executor tasks, your will may be contested and cause conflict amongst family members.
You can state that if the person is over a certain age at your time of death, they will be allowed to be executor of the will.
Choosing an executor is a difficult task, but a person that is responsible, patient and emotionally grounded is normally a good choice. If no executor is named, the judge will rely on state law to name a someone to act as executor.

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