Your will is your list of instructions on how to dispose of your assets and provide for your family. You want to be sure that the person you choose to carry out those instructions responsibly. For this reason, the choice of the person to fill the position is a critical one in creating youyr estate plan.

Characteristics of a Good Executor

There are three things you need to look for in a good executor. He or she must be someone

  1. you trust;
  2. who is capable of doing the job; and
  3. who is willing to do the job.

You want someone who is intelligent, responsible, and well-organized. The main qualities that an executor should have are

  • honesty,
  • organizational skills, and
  • the ability to communicate effectively.

The executor has many responsibilities, some of which can be complex. Although some of the necessary tasks may be complicated (like preparing tax returns or making investment decisions), your executor can hire professionals (attorneys, accountants, investment advisors) for assistance.

Other Things to Consider

Financial Responsibility. One attractive quality in an executor is perseverance in handling bills, particularly those pertaining to hospitals, Medicare, ambulance, and doctors concerning a final illness. These frequently require much paperwork when communicating with and seeking reimbursement from insurance companies. The person you choose should have the time and be willing, to deal with bureaucracy and forms.

Location. Where your executor lives is another factor to consider. You should choose someone who lives here in New Jersey, as someone local will find it easier to do the job. If he or she lives reasonably close to where most of the assets are situated, they can more easily make court appearances, check mail, and maintain estate properties.

Likely Candidates for the Job

Family members. Most people pick their spouses, children, or siblings. A trusted child can be a good choice, but in some instances choosing one child over another can lead to hurt feelings. In the interest of family harmony, you can name more than one executor, although that may not be the best idea if you think they can’t work together, and I don’t recommend it.

Although your spouse may be the person you trust most, consider whether he or she will be up to the task. They may be incapable of fulfilling the requisite duties because of grief, sickness, or disability. In the role of executor, your spouse will have personal liability for any unpaid estate taxes and fines for late filings, even if they had assigned these responsibilities to an attorney.

Friends. Instead of choosing a child or your spouse, a better choice might be a trusted friend. It can make sense to choose an individual who will get a considerable inheritance under the will. A person who stands to inherit will have an incentive to see that property in the estate is cared for and distributed in a timely fashion. On the other hand, you want to make a selection that is unlikely to cause bickering among family members and will contests. Thus, exercise caution and think about the ramifications of your decision if you anticipate strife among your heirs. In this situation, a beneficiary may not be the best choice.

Outsiders. Another option is someone who has no potential conflict of interest, i.e. someone who will not inherit under the will. In so doing, you minimize the likelihood of will contests brought by dissatisfied relatives who might accuse the executor of cheating. If you possess a sizeable estate, there are likely to be more conflicts, and thus, you should think about designating an outside executor.

Institutions. You could name a bank or financial institution, but I advise against this choice, unless you have no other options, because of the impersonal nature of the service and the fees the institution will charge.

So What Else Do I Need to Think About?

Choosing the right executor is only one part of putting together a good estate plan. If you want more information about what documents are included, and things you need to think about to prepare them, then I recommend that you download my free book, A Guide to Creating Your Estate Plan. It will get you a long way towards achieving that goal.

But if you live in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland counties, have decided that you need to put together an estate plan, and are ready to move forward to create one, then just click here to schedule a free, no obligation phone call to discuss it.

Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.