An executor is a person or institution tasked with carrying out your wishes and handling your estate after you pass away. The executor is legally obligated to meet your wishes and act in the best interest of your estate after you die.
Normally, an executor is chosen and named when preparing a Will or estate plan. Should you die without a Will, the court will appoint someone – known as a personal representative – to perform the duties normally assigned to an executor. Since the executor’s duties are so important to your estate, it is equally important to choose carefully…
One approach in choosing an estate’s executor is to appoint someone who does not have an interest in your estate and so will have no motivation to act unfairly. In other words, someone who will not benefit from the Will. This is often the case with larger estates, and many times, an institution or a professional, such as an attorney or a bank, will be named. Their fees are addressed in the will and they are paid from the estate’s assets. Paid executors are normally able to hire other professionals, such as a tax expert or investment counselor, for additional expertise.
For small estates and estates that do not have the potential for conflict, you may prefer to choose a trusted friend or family member that doesn’t require payment to act as your executor. Like paid executors, your friend or family member can also hire professionals to help them settle the estate if needed but with smaller estates, this is often not necessary. Just remember that with an executor’s numerous tasks and responsibilities, it is important to choose someone who is up to the challenge and is stable, trustworthy and capable of carrying out these potentially time-consuming duties while they are grieving.
It is possible to name more than one estate executor, or co-executors, and they can be both paid and unpaid. No matter what the choice is, it is important to have a successor, or backup choice, named, should the original executor choose not to serve or be unable to serve.
Choosing an executor for your estate is a critical part of writing a Will. Consulting an estate planning professional for questions or additional information can provide you with the tools you need to make this important decision.