Who To Choose?
How to decide on the right
person to settle your estate.
Your executor (executrix, if female) is the person who acts as your representative to settle your estate when you're gone.
They are in a position of trust and are responsible for your assets. Their role is to secure, maintain, inventory and value your assets, pay outstanding bills and taxes, and distribute your estate according to your wishes.
It's a big job, and that's a very simplified explanation. In fact, it may be the hardest job they never applied for, so it's important to choose wisely.
To help you with this important decision, there are key characteristics and issues you should be considering when selecting your executor: trust, capability, conflict and geography.
You wouldn't hand your wallet over to someone you didn't trust. In this case, you're handing over your wallet, bank accounts, your home and other property, vehicles, all of your belongings and access to every account you own. This must be a person you trust completely. As if that weren't enough, it's not just your possessions you're trusting them with, it's also your loved ones who may be counting on those assets and need them in a timely manner.
An executor will need to be able to complete numerous forms, pay attention to details, have some numerical skills and certainly a strong ability to communicate. If your estate includes a business though, will they be able to manage it until it can be sold or transferred? If trusts are involved, will they have the knowledge to interpret and administer them correctly?
If your estate has such complications, you may be better off considering a professional executor service or give your executor the authority to hire out key projects to professional providers. After all, you expect your executor to get the job done, but you probably don't expect them to do everything themselves.
Executor Depot, for example, provides considerable time-saving services for nominal costs and your executor should know it's acceptable to leverage their time with those services. Our certified executor advisors can also help them with any questions or challenges they may encounter.
There are two types of conflict to consider.
The first is conflict of interest. For example, suppose you name your business partner as your executor due to his or her financial skills. The liquidation of your shares in the company would put them in a conflict of interest, and they would almost certainly have to recuse themselves from their duties as your executor. Better to choose someone without vested interests in any of the estate assets.
The second is conflict of personality. If you know, for example, that your eldest daughter and second husband don't see eye to eye, naming either of them as executor is almost certain to cause conflicts before they even begin. Family fights breaking out at funerals is not uncommon. Instead, consider someone more neutral in the family, with equal relationships with all parties.
If your first choice for executor lives far away, you may want to look to your second choice if they are closer. Consider how they would deal with periodic meetings, communication with other beneficiaries, or the sale of the assets which won't be distributed to your beneficiaries.
Being an executor is difficult enough without trying to do it from a distance. If your executor will have to deal with matters from a distance, encourage them to discuss this with one of our certified executor advisors or use the Executor Wizard, as we have recommendations which can make matters much easier than trying to do everything themselves.