When you pass away, your executor is the one who will legally tie up any loose ends. They will typically handle of any or all of the following responsibilities:
- File court documents for the probate process
- Fulfill the distribution provisions contained in your will for any beneficiaries
- Pay estate’s final bills, debts, and taxes
- Notify the government, banks, and creditors of the death
- Secure any assets for minors or an incapacitated beneficiary if immediate distribution to them cannot be made (commonly with trust provisions or custodial bank account provisions contained in the will)
Choosing an executor is an important decision, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. This person should be someone with whom you have a strong relationship with and can trust to honor your wishes once you pass.
There are many questions you’ll have as you decide on an executor for your will, some of them obvious and some not. To give you some peace of mind as you make this choice, here are a few things you’ll want to consider.
Who can I trust?
Many believe the most important quality in an executor is financial and legal intelligence. However, no amount of intelligence matters if you’re not sure you can trust someone. Would you have confidence in this person to pay back a large amount of money you loaned them? Are they responsible and make good decisions in their own life? If you have a hard time answering yes, you may need to look elsewhere.
Be sure to appoint someone who is honest and can responsibly hire the right people to take care of your wishes. You need someone who you trust with your life to trust in death.
Do I have to pick family?
While the most obvious choice may be a close loved one, such as your spouse or oldest child, heavily consider if it is the right choice. No matter how strong your relationship, if you have difficulty relying on someone or they aren’t in good financial standing, they may not be the best person to support your needs after you’re gone – and it’s okay not to choose someone because of that.
Another factor in choosing family is age and health. If you don’t have someone in your family who you believe will outlive you or isn’t in good enough health to carry out these responsibilities, than you may want to consider looking outside of family.
What about a third party?
If you’re having a hard time choosing a family member or friend, another option is to appoint a bank, trust, or a professional estate executor to handle your affairs. These are business or legal professionals who will educate and engage you on the steps of executing your will and bring you into the process.
Keep in mind that hiring a professional will incur additional costs and fees: While a family member often takes on the executor role on a volunteer or reimbursement basis, a third party will expect compensation for their services. However, it may be worth the investment if you believe having a neutral party as your executor will keep the peace within your family after you’re gone.
How do I get someone’s approval to name them as my executor?
Whether you chose family or a third party, it’s strongly recommended that you ask their permission before you name them in your will.
If you’re choosing a family member or friend, sit down with them to review your current will and financial status so everything is clear. And as time goes on, continue to update them with any changes so they can stay up to date on your final wishes.
Have more questions about choosing an executor? Consult an experienced estate planning attorney.
Ensuring your affairs will be taken care of after you’re gone can be challenging. An estate planning attorney will review the process with you, discuss your options, and see if the person you have in mind as your executor is truly the best option for you.
The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. has nearly two decades of experience helping Virginia residents with their estate planning needs. We’re here to listen and discuss your needs with you to take the next steps.
Contact us to discuss your circumstances so we can help you choose the right executor for your will.