Estate Planning Advice: Who Should You Ask to Be the Executor of Your Estate?

A crucial part of estate planning is choosing an executor, a role that comes with important responsibilities.  When settling an estate, their duties include contacting beneficiaries, safeguarding and distributing assets, paying any taxes, and addressing the claims of creditors.  When you think about who you should ask to be the executor of your estate, consider the following advice:

Don’t pick an executor just based on how emotionally close you are to them.  For instance, you may be really close to one of your children or one of your siblings, but they may not be up to the tasks required of an executor.  They could be loving and well-intentioned, but perhaps they’re also disorganized or irresponsible with financial matters; it might also be very difficult for them to handle additional responsibilities when grieving.

Think about whether any conflicts might arise from your choices.  What are your family dynamics? In addition to making sure you choose someone who is trustworthy and will shoulder the responsibilities of an executor, think about whether this choice would stir up any conflicts among loved ones.

Ask yourself if the person you choose as executor would be good at being diplomatic.  How would they respond to any conflicts between beneficiaries? Furthermore, if you name co-executors, consider how well you think they would work together.

Don’t name someone as executor without their knowledge.  Discuss it with them, and with other loved ones and with your lawyer, in advance.  Always have alternates lined up as well, in case the executor you’ve chosen can’t fulfill the position (e.g. they pass away or become mentally incapacitated).  Make sure they learn in advance what their duties would be so that they have a clear understanding of what to do.

Sometimes you would want to choose a lawyer or another trusted professional outside the family to be an executor.  You may do this because your estate is complex or because there’s no easy choice for an executor among your loved ones.  Inquire into what fees you would have to pay in any case.

If you do choose a trusted family member or another loved one, give them the contact info of reputable lawyers and accountants who can assist them with discharging their duties.  This will reduce the chances that they’ll make unintentional, costly mistakes and face penalties.

To further discuss who you should choose to be your executor, contact us. We’ll help you select the best person, or people, for the job.