How to Choose the Right Executor for Your Will

By | June 2, 2011

What is one of the most valuable social resources? Simple: trust. When you trust someone implicitly, it gives you an ally – someone who can take care of you when you’re sick or incapacitated in some way, for example. But there is more you can do when you trust someone implicitly especially when it comes to the legal realm: you can trust them to take care of your things.That’s the role of a will’s executor. You see, when a will is drafted and ultimately “executed” – that is, put into action after your passing – someone needs to be in charge of making sure that your property is actually doled out according to the wishes put forth in your will. It’s a simple enough process, but it is obvious why you need to pick someone you trust to be your will’s executor. After all, if you wrote a will, then it goes without saying that you want people to pay attention to your wishes after you’re gone.

In other words, you want your property to go to the right people. That’s generally the role of a will’s executor, and it’s something you’ll want to focus on when you consider your estate planning. Believe it or not, it can rarely be “too early” to draft a will and choose an executor for that will. Forgive the morbid thought, but you never know when you’re going to pass, and if you did, the entire estate planning process would probably be a lot simpler. But we know that’s not how things work.

Do you need help choosing the right executor for your will? If so, you’re not alone. A lot of people are looking for that same advice, which is why we can outline a few but very crucial tips for choosing the executor of your will.

Tip #1: Choose an executor for your situation – don’t follow a cookie-cutter approach. One of the most popular executors for a will can be someone you love closely like a family member. But let’s face it: not everyone has the ideal family situation that others do. While one person could easily choose their spouse to be the executor of their will, there are potential obstacles along the way if the family situation is complicated.  That’s why it’s important not to choose a cookie-cutter approach. Don’t pick someone simply because they’re your son, brother, wife – what have you.  Choose someone because they’re the right executor to your will.

This means that you’ll have to exercise a little judgment.  If you ask yourself who among your friends and family you trust implicitly to handle something like a will, remember that not everyone is cut out for it. You may trust your third daughter implicitly, but perhaps your eldest daughter is better qualified to handle a will. You may trust your friend implicitly, but maybe they’ve never been totally responsible in their own lives.

It’s important to remember at this point, also, that choosing an executor to a will is not a sweeping judgment on the value of any person. If you have two sons and one is a lawyer, the choice should be obvious – it doesn’t mean you love any of your two sons more than the other. So be shrewd with this choice and, if you’re wracked with guilt over choosing someone over another, it might be a good idea to tell them about your decision and to remind them that it doesn’t reflect on any one personally.

Tip #2: Sometimes it’s okay to leave it to the professionals. In many cases someone will simply allow their estate planning lawyer to be the executor of a will. Or they might choose an accountant or a tax planner. This takes away any of the issues surrounding family battles over wills, at least as far as the executor is concerned. If someone is drafting a will and anticipates a family battle over the estate, then a professional might be a good choice to be executor over the will.

Of course, this isn’t the only reason you might select a professional that you trust. You might simply want to lessen the burden on your family when you’ve passed, leaving the work of will execution to someone whose job it is to do so. This is a compassionate move, and many times this is reason enough for some people to choose a professional when it comes to the execution of their will.

It’s also important to remember that if you have a large estate to leave behind, someone capable of handling all of the ins-and-outs of your estate might be better qualified than someone in your family. Again, this is not a value judgment:  it’s simply a matter of letting someone else handle the work of estate planning from start to finish.

Many people ask that if “trust” is one of the most important issues here, then why would a complete stranger be a good executor simply because they’re a professional?

The answer is simple: who says you can’t trust your lawyer? If you’ve been working with an estate planner for several years, then you’d better trust them ahead of time, making sure that their references stack up and they have a solid reputation.  Don’t work with anyone you can’t trust in the first place, and you won’t have to worry about the trust issues that surround the execution of a will.

Tip #3: Once the decision is made, be at peace with it. Estate planning should be all about giving as much peace as possible to both you and your loved ones. That’s why it’s important to remember that once you’ve chosen an executor for your will, it’s okay to relax and trust that your estate will be in good hands. Sure – put lots of work into the decision up front. But once you’ve made the decision, use that freedom to enjoy your life and your time with your loved ones.

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