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How to Choose an Executor for Your Estate

David Hicks

One important step of estate planning is picking an executor for your estate. The executor assumes responsibility for settling your estate after your death.

Settling an estate can take years and the process can be time-consuming. The amount of work involved and the time needed will depend on the size of the estate, the quality of the estate plan, and whether any assets have to go through the probate process.

Many people think they should name their next of kin as executor of their estate, but that’s not always the best choice. Being an executor can be time-consuming and emotionally taxing. Here are some tips on choosing an executor for your estate:

What to Consider When Choosing an Executor

They Should be Responsible and Reliable

Consider naming someone who has good judgment and can multitask. If this person is knowledgeable about taxes and accounting, even better. Interpersonal skills also matter since, in some cases, the executor will be responsible for resolving family disputes.

Above all, appoint someone who is responsible and pays meticulous attention to detail. This person should be financially stable and have a history of making good money decisions.

Make Sure They Want the Job

It’s also important that the person you choose to be executor agrees to fulfill the role. Never name anyone without first getting their approval and consider naming a backup or co-executor in case your appointed executor decides he or she is not up to the task.

Pick Someone Younger

Consider the age and health of the person you are choosing as executor. You’ll want to pick someone who is likely to outlive you by a significant number of years and can handle the stress. Many experts recommend appointing at least one younger successor executor. Some financial planners tell their clients to avoid appointing children as equal co-executors. This can help avoid sibling disagreements.

It Helps if the Executor is Local

The executor does not need to live close by, but it can help. State laws may restrict who you can name as executor. If you want to appoint an out-of-state executor, it may have to be a relative, depending on where you live. In some states, you may have to appoint an in-state agent as executor.

Consider Choosing a Professional

If you feel that your children, other relatives, or close friends are not a good fit for the job, that’s not a problem. You can always name your attorney or accountant as executor. For larger and more complex estates, choosing a professional may be the best approach. If you go this route, don’t forget to negotiate payment. Typically, a percentage of your estate’s total value will be collected as the fee.

Who Can’t Be an Executor?

The probate court must approve your executor. Some people are not permitted to serve in this role. These include:

  • Minors
  • Ex-felons, in most cases
  • Non-U.S. citizens

Not Sure Who to Choose?

Picking an executor is not an easy decision and is best done as part of a comprehensive estate planning process, especially if you have significant assets. Professional guidance can make estate planning decisions easier and potentially reduce the amount of estate tax that will have to be paid. A professionally crafted estate plan will also help ensure your wishes are honored. Reach out for help from one of our advisors today.

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