The executor of your will plays a fundamental role in settling matters relating to your estate. The executor is responsible for protecting the estate, paying the estate’s debt, distributing property to the beneficiaries of the will, canceling credit cards, hiring a probate attorney and much more. Depending on the size of your estate and legal issues, the job can be both time-consuming and complicated, so consider very carefully the person you want to take on this duty. The spouse is the most common choice for executor, but some people choose a professional, paid executor.
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Consider someone you trust. The executor of your will is considered a “fiduciary.” This means that she has a legal and ethical responsibility to behave honestly and justly with respect to your estate. Make sure that you have no doubts as to the integrity of the person you choose, as this person will have access to your bank accounts, credit cards and other assets.
Choose a financially responsible person. Given that the executor is responsible for managing your property, paying the estate’s taxes and bills, and deciding whether to liquidate certain assets to cover the expenses of the estate, select a person that handles money wisely. An executor who makes poor choices with respect to your money can deeply impact the financial situation and life of your beneficiaries.
Select a person who lives relatively nearby. In settling your estate, your executor will need to access your financial papers and tax documents, and possibly make multiple visits to your bank, lawyer and accountant. When possible, choose someone who can carry this out without having to travel long distances. If your executor lives far away from you, it may greatly slow down the probate process, potentially affecting the lives your heirs and beneficiaries.
Discuss the role with the person of your choosing. It is essential that you name someone who agrees to take on this role. Explain to your choice the duties of an executor, and ask whether he feels comfortable with the role. If your first choice has strong objections or refuses outright, look for another candidate.
Pick an alternate executor. Even if your first choice agrees to be executor, name a second choice in your will in the event that your first choice dies before you or is otherwise unavailable. Go through the same selection process with your second choice as with your first.