Do you have any recommendations or tips for selecting an executor of a will? I am putting together my will and I want to make sure I know my options and choose someone who is capable of taking on this responsibility.
An executor is the person or institution that will be in charge of administering your estate and carrying out your final wishes. Choosing an executor is one of the most important decisions when preparing a will.
A good executor can help ensure the prompt and accurate distribution of your possessions with minimal problems. Some of the required duties include: filing court papers to start the probate process; managing your estate's assets; using your estate's funds to pay debts, taxes and bills; handling details like terminating credit cards and providing notice of death to banks and government agencies, like the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Post Office; preparing and filing final income tax returns; and distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Given all this responsibility, the ideal candidate should be someone who is honest, dependable, well-organized, good with paperwork and vigilant about meeting deadlines.
Whom to Choose
Most people's first inclination is to name a family member, especially a spouse or child, as executor. If, however, you do not have an obvious family member to choose, you may want to ask a trusted friend. Be sure to choose someone in good health and younger than you who will be able to carry out your plans.
If your executor of choice lives in a different state, you may want to talk to an attorney to see if your state's laws impose any special requirements. Some states require an out-of-state executor to be a family member or a beneficiary while others may require a bond to protect your heirs in case of mismanagement or the appointment of an in-state agent.
Also, keep in mind that if the person you choose needs help settling your estate, he or she can always call on an expert, like an attorney or tax accountant, to guide them through the process. If your executor chooses to do so, your estate will cover any costs involved.
If you don't have a friend or relative you feel comfortable selecting, you could name a third party executor like a bank, trust company or a professional who has experience administering estates. If you need help locating a professional, the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys have great resources and provide directories on their websites to help you select an executor.
Often times, family members and close friends who are also beneficiaries will agree to serve as executor for free. But, if you opt for a third-party executor, your estate will have to pay the third-party's fee. Each state has laws that govern how an executor is paid – either based on a percentage of the estate, a flat fee or an hourly rate.
Make sure to ask the executor you have chosen if he or she is okay with serving as your executor before naming that individual in your will. Once you have made your choice, go over the financial details in your will with that person and let him or her know where you keep all your important documents and financial information.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.