Estate Planning: How To Choose An Executor For Your Estate

A will can quell estate battles

Choosing an executor is one of the most critical steps in your estate planning. Having a designated executor means your estate will end up in the right hands according to your wishes.

Given the magnitude of the responsibilities of managing your estate, you want to choose an executor who fully understands and respects your wishes and those of the beneficiaries. For this reason, many testators go for close friends or relatives as the executor. However, this should not be the way for everyone.

You must be sure that your designated executor can conduct the following roles, among others.

What Are the Roles of An Estate Executor?

The executor should understand your retirement Benefits plan

Executors have a fiduciary duty

If the Will has no designated executor or there was no valid Will at the time of death, the probate court may appoint an estate administrator with similar responsibilities as an executor named in a Will.

In some states, the executor is the personal representative (PR) and must adhere to the terms provided in the Will or by the probate court. Below are some duties of the PR:

  • Filing a petition and the Will.
  • Notifying the Register of Wills
  • Notifying beneficiaries
  • Filing Inventories
  • Paying claims
  • Paying all necessary taxes
  • Filing tax returns
  • Appearing before probate court to report on the estate.

The executor must keep communication channels open to keep the probate court, beneficiaries, and other interested parties updated.

Who Qualifies to Be an Executor of a Will in Estate Planning?

Anyone who understands the terms of your Will can qualify to be the estate executor. Typically, Wills are written comprehensively, making them executable even by the spouse, siblings, or children. However, this does not rule out the possibility of considering a neutral professional.

You must meet the following minimum requirements to qualify as an estate executor.

  • Be above the age of 18.
  • Must not have a felony conviction.

Some states may require you to outsource local executors and only consider out-of-state executors if they’re also primary beneficiaries in the Will.

How To Choose an Executor Who Is Not Friend or Family

meet your relatives as you explore your genealogy and estate

Be professional

If you don’t have any surviving close friends or family members or don’t want them to be the executors in your estate planning, you can hire professionals like trusts, charities, or a probate law firm.

Here is a more detailed look into other options:

  1. Professional Executor

Most of the time, financial planners and attorneys serve as professional executors in estate planning. The professionals have the necessary skills and experience to handle probate cases and asset management. They make a good choice when you can’t find a friend or relative to handle such a magnitude estate.

  1. Naming A Charity

If you like working with charities, consider naming one as an executor of your estate. Naming a charity may be a good option, especially when you want to support a cause after you pass away.

It’s worth noting that charities are reluctant to take up roles such as estate administration. However, if you’ve been a long-time donor during your lifetime or have them as a beneficiary in your Will, they may be obliged to accept the role.

  1. Backup or Co-Executors

Co-executors ensure that you wishes are followed the letter and funds are accounted for to the penny. Besides, having a friend or family as the backup creates a feeling that you didn’t completely ignore close relatives or friends who expected to form part of the estate planning team.

Additionally, having a co-executor ensures that the executor has a helping hand when conducting the role. Having a backup executor should not lead to a split of the roles but act as an alternative if anything happens to the primary executor.

However, some backup executors may complicate the estate planning and settlement process. Disagreements and lack of communication between the two could lead to additional lawsuits and delays. Therefore, you should choose individuals with a good relationship for the sake of the estate and the beneficiaries.

How Much Is the Executor Paid?

Gifting in stepchildren's inheritance

Executors’ pay depends

Executor payments may vary with jurisdictions, and states require you to pay a “reasonable fee,” usually from the estate. Some states may set a specific percentage of the estate as payment to the executor, including any out-of-pocket expenses.

The costs for an executor may be minimal when you’re working with a family member rather than a professional. However, if the family member lives out of your state, they may be required to obtain a bond to protect the estate from misuse.

Therefore, familiarize yourself with the laws in your state and ensure your choice of an executor can cater to the upfront cost of a bond. Alternatively, you can waive the bond requirement through your Will.

Note that the executor may need the assistance of a probate attorney, especially when the Will or the court process is complex. In this case, you will have to accrue more expenses from the estate.

Tips for Choosing the Right Executor in your Estate Planning.

Acting as an executor is a crucial responsibility, so you should be careful in choosing the person to handle your estate. You need to know the traits to look for and how to tell an incapable individual.

  1. Pick Organized and Responsible Parties Only

A group of people connected through genealolgy

Look for a professional

Organization and responsibilities are essential qualities you need to check when choosing an executor in estate planning. Your preferred executor doesn’t have to be a professional financial planner, accountant, or attorney, so long as they are responsible.

A responsible executor will also work with responsible probate researchers and attorneys, making the entire process seamless. Besides, a responsible executor will keep the communication channels open for all the parties involved.

Remember that the executor will receive payments from your estate, so you should expect him to be outstanding in his job.

  1. Consider People in Good Financial Standing

Heir research for adopted individuals

Use due diligence

Your choice of executor should be well versed in matter finance and demonstrate the same in his personal life. So, it would be a bad idea to go for a guy with many creditors and liens against them. People who have declared bankruptcy may not be the go-to option as it would be challenging to get a bond, let alone manage an estate.

Bonding is crucial in estate administration and a requirement by the probate court to help distribute the estate in case the executor absconds. So, most companies may deny an executor the bond if they feel they are a financial risk. As a result, the probate court may not allow your choice of executor based on their financial standing.

  1. Name Younger Co-executors

Sometimes the heir may be too young to lodge a claim

co executors should enhance the process

Most people only draft their Will once in their lifetime, making it possible to have a probate process handling a Will that’s decades old. Since many things may have changed throughout that time, you need to name at least one younger and healthy backup executor in your estate planning.

It is assumed that the younger executor may outlive you or the primary executor. You can choose the younger executor by explicitly naming them in the Will or by elaborating a mechanism, such as the eldest of your remaining children.

  1. Don’t Worry About Executor’s Current Location

The entrance of a probate court

Probate court

Of course, the probate process requires property maintenance and regular court appearances so the executor must be in a convenient location. However, an executor doesn’t have to relocate to qualify.

While attending court proceedings and regular property visits are crucial, the executor can perform all these without being close to you. They can also hire a company to conduct most other roles, like disposing of the furniture or maintaining real estate.

  1. Prevent Drama

Family dramas are common in estate planning

Conflicts are common in estate planning

Estate planning and inheritance is no stranger to drama involving relatives, siblings, and professionals. Therefore, you should formulate your Will and choose an executor in a way that makes estate settlement peaceful.

The friends or family included as beneficiaries may not get along. So, when you choose one of them as the executor, they may use the position to exact revenge on others by being mean, adding hardships, or causing delays.

In this case, you can include both parties as executors to force them to work together and avoid one taking advantage of the other. Alternatively, you can leave them out and find a neutral executor to minimize court disputes and prevent drama.

  1. Choose a Patient and Emotionally Grounded

Conduct in-depth genealogy research and estate planning

They should understand their job

The need for an executor who can keep the peace despite the dramas cannot be overstated. Your choice of an estate administrator or PR should be ready to handle the hard work and maintain the emotional balance.

Although the probate process has remained almost the same for centuries, estates have become complex. As a result, disagreements become more likely among parties on the applied approaches, documentation, or procedures.

The executor must be ready for altercations and know how to deal with them despite their own struggle with the loss of a close friend or a loved one.

  1. Inform The Executors

Let your designated executors know you’re considering them for the role and ask their opinion. Besides, it would be best to let them read through your Will carefully and identify any areas of ambiguity that may stall the probate or estate settlement process.

Most importantly, ask the executor if they genuinely feel they can dedicate their attention and time to such a demanding responsibility and what additional assistance they may need.

Such a brief to the executor will help them prepare in advance and establish if they’re up to the task. If not, they should be ready to decline politely and offer to help in other ways.

Get Started with Estate Planning

Now that you understand the ideal qualities of a good executor, you can carry on with your estate planning at ease. The most important thing is for the executor not to go alone.

Instead, he should reach out to professional genealogist attorneys, administrators, executors, trustees, and bank and trust officers to complete heir search, estate settlement, probate research, heir search services, and more.

Hire Record Click experts to help you smoothly work out the estate planning and probate process to avoid the stress of being an executor.

Contact us today to schedule a private consultation to start the process.