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Choosing the right executor for your estate

When you work on creating your will, you will have one very important decision to make: who will serve as your estate’s executor. An estate executor has many responsibilities, including settling any of your estate’s debts, finding your assets and distributing them, filing for probate and paying any final bills and taxes.

Often, those who have children choose one of their children to be their executor, but if you have more than one child, or don’t have children, who do you pick? It isn’t always an easy choice. So, here are some tips to consider in choosing an executor

You want to appoint someone who is responsible. Your executor doesn’t need to be a family member. You can pick a close friend who you think is responsible enough to handle the job. You also can name an attorney, accountant, bank or trust company to serve as an executor. Their fees for settling your estate will come out of your assets.

You can name more than one executor. If you think having both your children serve as executor will help ease the burden of settling your estate, you can appoint joint executors. Keep in mind, though, joint executors must come to agreement about certain decisions.

You want someone who likely will outlive you. This is part of the reason many people choose one of their children to handle their estate. It could also be a niece, nephew, trusted coworker or younger friend.

You need to pick someone who lives in the United States with no criminal record. The court wants to know that someone who can handle this task honestly and fairly is doing so – and someone who the court has some jurisdiction over.

You want someone who knows your values and your family’s specific situation. If you appoint someone outside your family to be your executor, you need to go over this information with them periodically, so they understand how to handle decisions that you may not have specifically included in your will.

You want to pick someone who is patient, yet emotionally strong. Being an estate executor often is a thankless job, especially if you have family members who are protesting your decisions or the will’s provisions. You need someone who can push back when needed. Also, having patience is important because it can take up to a year or more to settle an estate and come with many unforeseen challenges.

Being an estate executor is a lot of hard work. The responsibilities involved often take more time and effort than expected. By choosing the right executor, and making them aware of your designation, your estate will be handled in the way you intended it to be.

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  • Walter J. Roesch IV
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