When choosing an executor for your will, it is important to understand what qualities this person should possess. He or she will be responsible for handling your estate after your death, and distributing your assets to the people you leave behind. It is an important job, and only certain individuals are suited for it.
The first thing you should look at when choosing an executor is the laws in your particular state. Laws differ by state on who can and cannot be an executor. In most cases, the person needs to be over 18 years of age and have no prior felonies. The state may also require that any out of state executors meet certain criteria, like being beneficiaries in your will, or carrying a bond to protect the estate in the event that the executor fails in his or her duties.
The most common choice for executor is usually a family member, such as a spouse, child or sibling. Because most wills are straightforward, the individual does not need to have any legal training to do the job. Many times people feel like a family member is most likely to be trustworthy and to have a personal investment in ensuring that the will is honored.
However, just because a person is family does not mean that he or she possesses the right characteristics to be a good executor. Even if the will is quite basic, it is still best if the executor is organized and a good communicator. He or she will need to handle a substantial amount of paperwork and will need to interact with a number of different people in the process of executing the will.
Probably the biggest concern for most people when choosing an executor is family perception. Even though the executor will be doling out the estate as the will instructs, there is still the possibility that resentment can develop amount the recipients. While resentment may be unavoidable in certain circumstances, it is still important to try and choose an executor that will be respected by most of the family.
Although most basic wills do not require legal counsel, if your estate planning involves significant assets, high tax liability or guaranteed disputes between recipients, it is a good idea to hire an estate planning attorney. This person can help the executor do his or her job and make certain that your last wishes are honored.