Planning Ahead

What to Know When Choosing an Executor

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Choosing an executor is one of the key components of writing a will and estate planning. The executor will be the person responsible for managing the estate of someone after they have died. This responsibility is often complicated and time-consuming, so choosing someone to carry out your final wishes requires thoughtful consideration. Here are a few things to think about when selecting an executor.

What Does a Will Executor Do?

For the most part, an executor is tasked with making sure the deceased person’s assets and property are distributed per the instructions in the will, and that any debts or creditors are paid off. If you do not name an executor in your will, the court will choose one for you.

The executor is responsible for managing the legal and financial affairs of the decedent, but they don’t need to be a lawyer or an accountant. However, the person you choose to execute your estate must be over 18 years old and of sound mind. Some states also require that an executor not have any felony convictions.

An executor’s tasks include the following:

  • Determine the location and contents of the deceased’s last will and testament.
  • Communicate pre-arranged funeral and burial plans to the family as specified in the will.
  • Manage the probate process in court to validate the will, if required.
  • Find the people named as beneficiaries and administer the inheritance process.
  • Ensure the deceased’s assets and property are secured and maintained before distribution or sale.
  • Review the estate’s assets and liabilities to pay off debts and creditors.
  • File a final income tax return.
  • Defend the will in court if necessary.
  • Finalize any remaining affairs, e.g., closeout accounts, manage a digital legacy, save records, etc.

Keep in mind that an executor doesn’t need to be an expert—they are allowed to seek professional assistance to carry out the instructions set out in the will adequately. However, as the executor, they are in charge of the deceased’s estate and must maintain a fiduciary responsibility to execute the terms of the will in full.

How to Choose an Executor

An executor needs to have certain characteristics to be effective in their assigned role. You might consider naming a family member as executor, but it can be difficult for a spouse or someone with close familial ties to manage probate and asset distribution during a time of grief. Having a relative serve as executor can also lead to family conflict and resentment. Here are some of the attributes that make for a good executor:

  • Honesty: The executor should have unwavering integrity and conduct themselves honestly in all aspects of estate management. The executor will have access to the deceased’s financial and legal details, so they also need to be trustworthy and capable of treating sensitive materials with care.
  • Strong communication skills: An executor must clearly communicate the terms of the will to beneficiaries and manage their expectations accordingly. The executor must also negotiate payments with creditors and reasonably settle disputes. These conversations often require empathy, sensitivity, and resolve, so it’s essential to choose a person who has strong communication skills and works well with others.
  • Highly organized: Select a person with excellent organizational habits. The executor should be efficient at collecting information, sorting through funeral paperwork and forms, and keeping track of important deadlines and documents.
  • Confirming Your Choice

    Once you decide on an individual to serve as executor of your estate, make sure you let them know. They may have questions or might not accept the role, in which case you should have a second choice in mind. This decision is just one of the many that will arise as you prepare a will and engage in estate planning, but Funeralocity can help you make an informed choice. Learn more about our services by visiting our FAQs page.

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