Choosing An Executor For Your Estate

Forbes discusses the executor of a person’s Last Will:

An executor is the fiduciary who, upon your passing, is responsible for managing every aspect of your estate. Often an executor’s duties entail a great deal of work, such as tracking down and accounting for all of your assets and liabilities, and submitting your will to the court of jurisdiction for acceptance in the process known as probate. The executor is responsible for important tax elections, tax filings and court accountings of income and expenses. He or she also works with attorneys and CPAs, and often may need to obtain valuations for real estate, financial and business assets. In some cases the executor may be in the unenviable role of arbitrating family disputes.

Generally, an executor’s responsibilities, which can last a minimum of two years and often much longer, end when all liabilities and expenses are satisfied, assets of the estate are distributed (outright or by trust), and the final tax filings are accepted by the various taxing authorities.

Executors need to be responsible:

Due to the meticulous nature of estate administration, primary attributes that make for an effective executor include a high degree of responsibility and attention to detail. Having experience working with financial professionals is important, as they will provide guidance on actions and elections that ultimately will be the executor’s responsibility. Age is also important, and your choice should balance maturity with an expectation that the person will significantly outlive you. Knowledge of your values and the specifics of your family’s unique situation also matter.

Executors also need to have a backbone. They need to stand up to aggressive heirs.

The articles discusses co-executors.

Although I’ve been referring to sole executors, having a family member serve as co-executor is quite common. However, it is important to keep in mind that generally this arrangement may require unanimity for certain decisions, which can be specified in the will. Regarding the naming of adult children, one should be mindful that other children may resent a sibling being appointed, whereas naming multiple children as co-executors can be cumbersome and problematic.

I never recommend co-Executors. You are just building litigation and contention into the estate plan.

I also note: an executor is only empowered after you die. If there is no death certificate, the person named in your Last Will has no authority. (In fact, they have no power until the will is probated and accepted by a Judge.) This is the reason a valid durable power of attorney is so critical.