One of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to writing your will is who you choose to be your executor. The executor of your will is the person who is responsible for carrying out your wishes in regard to your estate, and to oversee the distribution of your assets. This is not a decision you should make lightly, and certainly not one that should be based on personalities, or how a person has treated you in the last year or two. You should not treat the decision as a way to reward family members for their loyalty or punish them for not visiting you enough. Just focus on the person with the best qualities to get the job done.
The job of an executor can be a demanding one. It involves having a good grasp of legal concepts and procedures, and the necessary communication skills to deal with everyone from lawyers, to creditors, to family members in the grip of a variety of emotions.
In order to make the best possible choice, you should know what is expected of an executor. Here is a list of the duties of an executor of a will.
- Make funeral arrangements.
- File the legal paperwork for a grant of probate so that they can manage the estate.
- Identify all the assets of the estate and turn them into cash (sell stock, cash in bonds, dispose of real estate, etc.).
- Pay any outstanding taxes the estate owes.
- Pay all outstanding debts.
- Distribute the assets of the estate to the people listed as beneficiaries in the will.
As you can see, these duties require a responsible, trustworthy individual to carry them out. The person should also be over 21, and, as far as possible, someone who has a close personal bond with you. A family member who knows you well is often the best choice, because that person will have a better feel for the family dynamics and issues that apply to your specific situation. If you do not have someone like that in your life, then a close acquaintance or business partner will fit the bill.
There are cases when it is actually better to choose someone who is a neutral party, especially if you think your will is likely to be contested in court. In cases like this legal experts recommend using a paid executor, perhaps an attorney, because it eliminates the possibility of conflict of interest or emotional ties to the deceased.
You should always talk things over with your executor before you finalize your decision. Explain every aspect of your will to make sure the person understands your wishes. The more details you give the better, because it will ensure there will be no confusion about your intent. You can also name a co-executor if you feel there is a need for it, e.g., if you think the first person will need help in fulfilling the legal responsibilities.
If you need expert advice about choosing an executor, or about any aspect of writing a will, contact Grissom Law, LLC at 678-781-9230.
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