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How to Choose the Right Executor

Posted on January 7, 2021

In death, we leave everything behind. Our home, our money, pets, dependents and debts.

That’s where an executor comes in and why it’s so important to choose the right person to administer your estate in the event of your death.

An executor essentially steps into the role you played in life, taking on your responsibilities and administering the tasks that come after life.

They become responsible for all of the legal tasks you used to do, like selling your property, dealing with your bank or distributing your assets. Responsible is the key word here. That’s one of the first things to look for in your chosen executor.

It’s the first thing, but not the only thing. There is a lot to consider when choosing the right person to administer your estate. Here are the questions you should be asking.

Are they responsible?

Let us underscore this one again. It’s absolutely essential to select someone who is up to the task of responsibly administering your estate.

To be responsible is to maintain control. In the event of your death, there are suddenly a lot of moving parts that need to be controlled. Many of these things are time sensitive and deal with complicated legal and financial matters. Someone who is responsible with money is especially important, especially as they will be required to ensure all of your debts are paid, their expenses are tracked and the remaining assets are distributed to your chosen beneficiaries.

Do they know your wishes?

An executor doesn’t need to be a close friend or relative. Often, it is. But, you can also hire a professional executor to carry out the tasks that come with your estate.

When working with someone, whether personal or professional, it’s important that your wishes are extremely clear. All of the work of an executor happens after your death. So, you need to properly equip them with information and instructions in your will. This makes their job easier and it ensures that your wishes are fulfilled, even though you aren’t there.

Are they financially savvy?

First and foremost, executors deal with money.

They may be called upon to sell your home or car. They need to know how to maximize the financial return on these sales for the health of your estate, giving more to your intended beneficiaries.

Depending on how complex your finances are, your executor will need to be savvy about personal finance, tax laws and legal topics. Or, they will need to be smart enough to know when a task is over their head and seek the correct professional guidance.

Are they willing?

A reluctant executor is not an ideal choice. This is a role that calls for diligence and thoughtfulness. Often executors will spend weeks dealing with paperwork, money and people. They need to be ready to face this challenge head on.

This is a case where it’s also important to name multiple executors. Rather than naming a co-executor, which can be complicated, you’re able to name multiple executors and provide a list for succession. This is especially useful in the event an executor you named dies before you - or is in ill health. Or, in the event that the person you named isn’t willing to do the job.

You are also able to be more vague in the naming of executors. This is helpful for ensuring someone will be willing and able to take the role. Here are some examples of how this can be written into your will:

  • “If my wife is unable to serve, I appoint my son.”
  • “If my husband is unable to serve, I appoint any of my younger siblings.”
  • “Any children of mine who are at least 30 years old at the time of my death may serve as executor.”
  • “If my husband is unable to serve, I give my children permission to hire a professional executor at this firm.”

Are they in good health?

As we age, those around us age, too. If you are in the later stages of life and are planning to select an executor, it’s essential to select someone who will be physically and mentally capable of administering your estate.

It’s important to note that wills don’t expire. So, your executor may be working from a will that is decades old. The executor you have named may also age in that time. You should aim to name at least one additional, younger successor executor who is more likely to be of sound body and mind in the event of your death.

Are they nearby?

It isn’t necessary to select someone who lives close by, but it does make the process a lot easier.

Executors often need to take on more than just finances and distributing assets. They will assume control over the care of your home and dependents. If they are far away, these tasks can be delegated to someone local. But, that can add a layer of complexity to an already complex situation.

Plus, selecting a local executor can be beneficial when it comes to something like selling your home, properties or assets. They have a better idea of going rates for homes, for example, with better connections to local realtors and vendors.

Are they diplomatic?

The distribution of assets following a death can be a delicate process. It requires an executor to be objective, with the ability to diffuse difficult situations.

Financial matters can create rifts between family members during an already emotionally taxing period. Your will determines who your assets go to and not every beneficiary will be happy with what they receive.

As the executor, they are only the messenger for your wishes. But, they need to approach these situations with diplomacy in order to avoid further upsetting distraught family members.

Your executor becomes a mediator in the event of disputes, which can arise if beneficiaries aren’t happy with what they stand to inherit or how the estate has been distributed.

Are they available?

When we say available, we mean do they have the ability to make time for the tasks that come with being an executor. It is a big job and can be time-consuming.

Select someone who may be able to take time off work to fulfil their role. Someone who is, let’s say, the CEO of a large company may not be the right choice if they aren’t able to step away from the day-to-day tasks to manage their work as an executor.

Are they qualified?

To be qualified isn’t to be a professional or certified executor. It’s to be legally able to manage financial and legal matters. For example, signing checks and dealing with debtors.

Here are a few examples of someone who may not be qualified to be an executor:

  • If they are under the age of 18.
  • If they do not reside in your home country.
  • If they have a criminal past.
  • If they are not deemed fit for legal decision making. For example, someone who is already under a power of attorney.

Above all, it’s important to select an executor you feel comfortable leaving your estate with.

Having the peace of mind that your beneficiaries and estate are taken care of can make your end-of-life journey smoother - for you and your loved ones.

Author(s): My Coda's Editorial Team

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