When you are planning your estate, you generally have a clear picture of how you want your legacy to live on. In addition to deciding who will receive the house and family heirlooms, you have another important decision to make: who will carry out these wishes. The executor of your estate will implement your action plan, and act as the voice of your estate.
Choosing the executor of your estate can be a tricky job. This person will be helping your loved ones through a difficult time, overseeing your finances, paying your final bills and distributing your property. Because it is a great responsibility, you’ll want to choose the right person for the job. These six characteristics should help you choose the best person to serve as your executor.
6 Qualities of a Good Estate Executor
- Ethical and Dependable – The executor of your estate will have an inside look at all of your finances. They will be charged with reviewing your assets, determining your liability, paying creditors and settling outstanding debts. You are entrusting the executor to settle your finances while maintaining a level of confidentiality. Choose someone you trust with your financial secrets.
Though many people choose a close family member or family friend, your executor can be anyone that you trust. A few options to consider include an attorney, accountant, banker or living trust as executor. Many of these people will charge a fee to the estate to settle your affairs.
- Organized – Settling an estate requires a great attention to detail. From listing assets to meeting court deadlines, a strong attention to detail is a must. A missed deadline may draw out an already lengthy process, so you will want to choose someone that is task-oriented and can stay on schedule.
Help the executor of your estate stay on top of the details of your estate. Organize your accounts in one central location. (Note: Nothing will replace a will or written estate plan. Contact your Farm Bureau agent for assistance in planning your estate and for a printed copy of our Journal of Wishes and Records.)
- Financially savvy – Because of your advanced planning, you will likely have life insurance and a plan for long term financial security. You have spent your life building and protecting these assets. Ensure your executor will exercise as much caution with your assets as you did while you were building them. A business-savvy executor will exercise timing and restraint to ensure that assets won’t lose their value before they are distributed to heirs of the estate.
- Fair and Impartial – Part of the job of executor is to balance you wishes with the best interests of beneficiaries. The executor will be called on to make practical decisions regarding your estate. Be sure to choose someone that can balance the best interests of your beneficiaries while remaining true to your final wishes (as expressed in your estate plan or via conversation). Often, executors are not beneficiaries of the estate, so they can act in the best interest of the estate without bias.
- Strong-willed – Unfortunately, false claims are often made against an estate in probate. Your executor should be prepared defend your estate plan from false creditors and invalid claims. Additionally, your executor may need to handle conflict among family members or anyone who may challenge your will. It’s best to choose someone who can be diplomatic but firm in difficult situations.
- Available – probating or settling an estate can take (on average) between nine and 12 months to complete, which is a significant amount of time for most people. Though the executor is typically compensated for the time they spend executing your final wishes, it is wise to choose someone who has the time to spend on your estate. Duties range from taking inventory of the estate, contacting creditors, communicating your final wishes to beneficiaries, filing taxes for the estate, and (if necessary) defending the will in court. Have a discussion with the person you wish to execute your will, and ensure they are willing to spend the time it takes to wrap up your estate and carry out your final wishes.
Additional reading: Estate Strategies to Help You Leave a Legacy
In addition to all of these qualities, remember to choose someone that is compassionate. Your executor will help your loved ones through a very stressful and difficult time, while guarding and protecting your wishes. Your Farm Bureau agent is here to help. From life insurance to estate planning, your Farm Bureau agent can connect you with resources that will help you plan (and execute) your estate plan.