As if estate planning wasn't complicated enough, you are now considering who would be the most appropriate executor for your estate. The executor is the person who guides your will through probate, closing out your estate by paying off your final bills and distributing your belongings according to your expressed wishes.
While in many cases, the oldest child may be the most obvious choice, this may not be best in your situation. If you have taken the time to prepare your plan for when you leave this world, you certainly want to make the best possible choice for your executor.
What are the qualities of a good executor?
You likely have someone in mind for the job. However, estate-planning advisors have some recommendations for those who are struggling to make the right decision. As you consider those who may be suitable to administer your estate, you may want to choose someone who has the following characteristics:
- Someone who is not having financial troubles: Some courts require an executor to be bonded, that is, to carry insurance to protect your heirs from losing their inheritance through the executor's negligence or misappropriation. The bonding company may not insure someone with a bankruptcy or poor credit history.
- Someone who is local: While this isn't essential, having an executor who can physically secure your estate and meet with your attorney may expedite probate. Otherwise, your executor may have to hire a service to manage things at the local level.
- Someone who will not stir up drama: If your choice of one executor will raise the possibility of disputes among other heirs, it may be best to choose another option.
- Someone who is qualified: Although no special skills are needed if an executor has the right assistance, your executor must be able to sign checks. This may disqualify people who are not U.S. citizens, who have criminal records or who are younger than 18.
- Someone who is level headed and patient: Probate can be time-consuming and frustrating, and sometimes an executor must make difficult decisions. Someone who is easily rattled may not be a good choice.
You may also find that naming a younger successor executor is a good idea, especially if your first choice is older. You may not even have to specifically name the successor, but it may be sufficient to appoint any of your children who happen to be older than a certain age when you pass away.
Above all qualities, you certainly want someone who is responsible and who will carry out the duties of executor with efficiency and trustworthiness. If you have exhausted your list of candidates without finding a suitable executor, you may decide that choosing the professional assistance of an attorney is the most prudent way to go.