If you’re like most people, you probably don’t put much thought into what will happen after you are no longer around. It’s not pleasant to contemplate our own death, and we often put off important estate planning decisions. But choosing an executor is one of the most important decisions you will have to make during the estate planning process, and is one that needs careful consideration. Choosing the right executor can be the difference between a peaceful distribution of your assets and pitched litigation over your estate that tears your family apart.
What an executor does
Being an executor is a busy job, and includes a variety of responsibilities. Your executor’s duties come into effect from the moment that you pass away, and extend through the entire wrapping-up process – including any possible litigation that could arise surrounding the terms of your will – until the estate is completely closed.
The first thing an executor will need to do is gather all your assets. This includes your physical possessions, but it also includes intangibles such as your bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, debts owed to you and so forth. Then, they’ll have to track down all of your creditors and satisfy all of your debts owed out of your estate, including taxes.
Finally, they’ll have to get ahold of everyone that you named as your beneficiaries and distribute what remains of your assets to them according to your will.
Traits a good executor needs
In order to accomplish this, a good executor has to have certain traits. They have to be reliable and dependable, so that you can be confident that they will carry out their duties promptly and to the best of their ability. They have to have the time to dedicate to the task.
Sometimes, executing an estate is relatively straightforward. Other times, it can lead to contention, feuding and even litigation. Whoever you choose to be your executor must be able to handle these things well. It should be someone who is good at diffusing tense situations and finding creative solutions to problems.
It’s a good idea to nominate one or two backups to your executor designation in your estate plan. That way, if your first choice is unwilling or unable to carry out the duties of executor, someone else you trust can take over. This minimizes the chances of the court having to nominate an executor that you wouldn’t have wanted.
Nominating an executor can be a tough decision when people have multiple children, friends or others to choose from. Rather than going with your spouse or oldest child by default, it can be a good idea to consider whether they really are the best person for the task.