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What Are the Key Considerations When Choosing an Executor for Your Estate?

Estate Planning

5 Questions to Ask About Potential Estate Executors

One of the decisions that is commonly made during the estate planning process is naming an executor for your estate. This is the person who acts as the personal representative of the estate, handling administrative probate and estate matters when someone passes away.

Some people may make a decision about the executor of their estate based on who seems convenient. It might sound convenient, for example, to choose a spouse or another close family member as your executor. After all, those are the type of people who may know you best and may already have some access to your assets and financial information. However, convenience is not a great reason for choosing someone as executor. 

Even a close relationship is not the only thing you should consider. Simply because you love someone and are sure they love you doesn’t make them an automatic good choice for this type of role. 

Before you name an executor, consider some important factors by creating realistic and honest answers to the five questions below.

1. Do You Trust Them?

Start by considering whether or not you trust the individual in question. Do you believe that they will work with your interests and wishes in mind throughout the estate process, and do you trust them to stick with the work even if it becomes frustrating? 

You may need to consider the person’s relationships with others and whether they are able to stand up to other family members to carry out your wishes. If someone is likely to give in to pressure from others, you may not be able to trust them to adhere to your wishes fully.

2. Do They Have Strong Administrative and Organizational Skills?

Probate and estate matters can be complex. Even if the estate is not especially large or complex, probate can require someone going through a variety of specific steps, attending to each in order and on a timeline. 

Estate administrators may need to use organizational skills to:

  • Gather information about debts and assets 
  • Complete a variety of forms and filings
  • Communicate with heirs and other interested parties in a timely manner
  • Pay remaining bills for the estate
  • Handle taxes for the estate
  • Complete final reports if necessary for probate
  • Disburse estate property according to the will

3. Are They Good With Numbers and Finances?

The tax requirements and other financial considerations for an estate also require that you choose an executor who has the financial acumen to handle the task. They don’t need to be an accountant or lawyer—and they certainly can work with professionals to help with the process. However, if you are considering naming someone as your executor who can’t manage to keep their own finances in order or who experiences stress when reading a bank statement, they may not be the right choice. 

4. Are They Willing and Available?

These are two considerations that may be overshadowed by factors related to someone’s competence and ability. However, willingness and availability are critical factors when selecting an executor for your estate.

Avoid naming someone as your executor without talking to them first. Ask them if they would be willing to take on this responsibility, and let them know why they are your choice. They can let you know whether they feel comfortable stepping into this role in the future, and if not, you can move on to your second choice.

You should also consider whether the person is likely to be available when it is time to step into the role. For example, if you are 50 when you are working on your estate plan, naming your 80-year-old mother might not be ideal. In this situation, the older adult may pass away before the younger one.

Of course, not being available doesn’t always mean someone has passed away. If someone is considering their sister as an executor, for instance, but she has four young children, lives across the country, and is working to launch a business, she might not have the bandwidth for that much extra responsibility in the near future. 

5. Do They Present Any Potential for Conflicts of Interest?

Finally, consider whether the individual can provide impartial service as an executor—or at least not incredibly partial service. 

For instance, any family member you might choose for such a role is not likely to be 100 percent impartial. However, if you know that your two adult children have a strained relationship, then selecting either of them as your executor could result in a conflict of interest. 

You might also consider whether the individual you want to choose as an executor would have a financial interest in your estate. One example of a potential issue might be if you select your business partner as executor, since he or she already has a financial interest in your business assets. 

Consider Working With Professional Estate Administrators

You don’t have to choose a family member as an executor. Some people choose professional executors to handle their estates, including lawyers.

If you’re not sure about who to choose for your estate executor or you would like to talk through your options with an experienced attorney, the team at Bratton Estate & Elder Care Attorneys can help. We also provide a variety of long-term planning and estate planning services. Contact us at 856 -770 -2744 to set up an appointment today.

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