While no one likes thinking about their own mortality, writing a will is an important part of planning for your family’s future.
When creating a will, you start by deciding who will receive your assets when you’re gone. But this is just the first step. Once your plan is on paper, someone still has to make sure your final wishes are met and your family is cared for.
That someone is your executor – the person designated to perform all the legal tasks related to your last will and testament. It’s a big job. So before you write down a name, seriously consider the responsibilities to determine who might be a good fit.
WHAT DOES AN EXECUTOR DO?
Your executor doesn’t have to be a professional. All it takes is a patient, mature person who can handle the responsibility.
The duties of an executor include:
- Offering your will for probate
- Taking inventory and managing your assets
- Using your estate’s funds to pay bills, including taxes, funeral and burial costs
- Notifying banks, creditors, and government agencies of the death
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Preparing and filing final income tax returns
- Paying off any debts
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PERSON TO BE YOUR EXECUTOR
Because of the significant responsibilities placed on your executor, not everyone will be right for the job. Here are some tips on how to choose an executor for your will:
- Choose someone you trust. Pick someone who is emotionally and financially wise. It helps if you know your executor will be humble enough to ask for help if things get complicated, too.
- Name a successor. Ideally, your executor will outlive you. But in the event that doesn’t happen, it’s always wise to name a successor – just in case.
- Avoid any feuds. When it comes to dividing your estate, tensions can run high. Choose a neutral party that will cause the least amount of conflict. Consider a group who works well together, or someone outside of the family to minimize disputes.
- Choose someone qualified. Make sure your first choice is a legal one. In most cases, non-U.S. citizens, felons and minors can’t act as executors. If your executor is young – such as a son or daughter – you can request that he or she only acts as executor after reaching a certain age.
- Find a third party, if needed. Consider using a bank, trust company, or other professional to manage your estate. Third parties can ease the burden for loved ones, and the cost can be covered from your estate.
- Change if necessary. As your life and relationships change, you may want to consider changing your executor, too. Periodically review your will to ensure your executor is still someone you trust to serve your estate.
- Get their approval. Always talk to your executor about the role beforehand. Go over your will so they’re prepared for the work ahead. This will make it less overwhelming for them when the time comes.